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If your heart skips a beat (stay on your feet)

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“All right, class, settle down. We have another transfer student joining us today, which makes - no, Aigis-san would’ve been the hat trick, wouldn’t she?”

Minako rolls her eyes as Toriumi-sensei’s joke falls flat before she’s even done telling it. Half the school was gossiping about the latest transfer, torn between thinking four new students in the same class in one school year is bad luck, wondering why someone would make their kid change schools in November, and not caring because he’s supposedly super cute.

He’s all right for a guy, Minako guesses. If someone’s into ‘deathly pale and uses way too much hair gel,’ anyway. His hairstyle reminds her of the one and only time Makoto tried gel last school year (he said he felt practically naked, and that it took way too long to wash out).

“He and his parents have been living overseas until now,” Toriumi-sensei continues, “so he may not be familiar with all of our customs. Please make sure you explain them to him.”

For all that, the new guy still pulls off a passable bow. “My name is Ryoji Mochizuki. I’d be grateful if you showed me the ropes.”

Minako loses track of the conversation after that - it’s just Toriumi-sensei displacing yet another absent classmate from their seat because the new kid needs one; Tomochika lost his to Aigis back in September for the grave sin of oversleeping - when she catches sight of Mochizuki’s name written on the board. By itself, she wouldn’t think anything of his given name. By itself, and without the context of this school year, she probably wouldn’t think anything of his family name, either.

She wants to be overthinking it, but his family name as written means ‘full moon.’

***

Aigis has felt uneasy since she and the others arrived at school this morning, and she does not know why.

Her sensors indicated the presence of Shadow activity the moment she set foot on campus, but she has not seen anything unusual. She has not mentioned it to the others; they would likely attempt to reassure her that Shadows cannot escape the containment of the Dark Hour.

And yet, Shadows existed before the Dark Hour, or the experimentation that led to the creation of Aigis and her mostly-lost sisters would not have taken place. Her purpose is to subdue and eliminate Shadows; she cannot bring herself down from high alert until the problem has been identified and dealt with.

Her sensors only grow louder when the new transfer student is introduced to the class. Otherwise, Mochizuki-san seems perfectly normal, so far as Aigis is any judge of ‘normal’ by human standards - but she is certain that he is the source of the disturbance.

His assigned seat is one row in front of Aigis, across an aisle. That is good; she can position herself between Mochizuki-san and Makoto-san if necessary.

She knows she ought to hold her tongue, but as he sits down she still snaps out, “You are dangerous.”

“Dangerous?” Mochizuki-san blinks at her, as though he had not considered the notion of himself posing a threat to someone else before. “I haven’t even asked you on a date yet!”

For the first time, Aigis finds herself wishing she could blink. “A… date?” She is aware of the custom, from the others talking about it - most often, the senior members of SEES attempting to carve out private time for themselves, or Junpei-san talking about places he would like to go with Chidori-san - but she does not understand how it applies in this context.

“Aigis, what’s wrong with you?” Yukari-san asks. It is an excellent question.

Mochizuki-san only laughs. “Rejected from the start, huh? You’re an interesting girl.”

The compliment does nothing to ease Aigis’ mind.

***

Makoto takes a quick walk around the school when classes let out for the day. It’s partly to see who’s got free time, but mostly…

He doesn’t know. There’s something weird about Mochizuki and he can’t quite put his finger on it. Aigis calling him dangerous at the slightest provocation doesn’t help, either. It’s not that he doesn’t trust her instincts, but - there’s got to be more to it than that. He seems pretty normal. Maybe Makoto’s just on edge after everything that’s happened in the last week.

He gets back to the classroom and hears Iori say, “Seriously, man, what do your parents even do that they moved you to a new country this late in the year?”

“My mother works nights. She doesn’t care what I do with my free time, so long as I make it home when I’m supposed to.”

“Oh, that sucks, man.” Iori glances up, and brightens when he sees Makoto. “Hey, Makoto! You been properly introduced to the new transfer student yet?”

Makoto shakes his head. Obviously, the whole class knows Mochizuki’s name - the whole school probably does by now - but it’s not the same.

Iori takes that as his cue to do the honors. “Makoto and his sister transferred in back in April.”

“Oh, I see. It’s nice to meet you.”

“You too.”

Then Makoto makes the mistake of making eye contact, and it’s like he can’t look away. He could swear this isn’t the first time they’ve met, but it’d be impossible for them to have met before now--

“Guys? What’re you two gaping at?”

Mochizuki breaks the spell first. “Oh, I just - I just got the strangest feeling. Have we met before?”

“Dude, shouldn’t you save that line for the girls?” Iori’s laughing, and for once, Makoto can’t entirely blame him. It does sound remarkably cheesy. Except for the fact that he was thinking the same thing.

“That’s - not how I meant it. Well, whatever. I hope we get along.” Mochizuki offers Makoto a handshake, and he can’t see a good reason not to go with it.

Time stops for the nineteenth time, but establishing a new social link doesn’t settle Makoto’s nerves as much as it has before.

He’d been wondering where the Moon link was.

It doesn’t help that Minako grabs him after dinner and pulls him up to the command room. “Something’s up with Mochizuki,” she says.

Makoto sighs. “Not you too. Aigis is being weird enough for at least three people right now.”

“Well, excuse me for thinking something’s up with Full-Moon-san after the week we’ve had. I’m not saying don’t talk to him at all, just… be careful, Mako, okay?”

He nods, since that’s easy enough to promise - and social link or not, he’d be talking to Mochizuki more anyway. There’s a mystery here that he feels like he needs to get to the bottom of.

***

Mitsuru has been staring listlessly at the same form for at least fifteen minutes. Probably longer; it’s not like her to lose track of time so thoroughly, but it feels like the pile of paperwork associated with her father’s estate and the Kirijo Group will never end.

She sighs. “What am I even doing?”

“Makin’ sure some asshole who thinks like Ikutsuki doesn’t take over,” Shinjiro says from the bed. He’s been a tremendous help through the last several days, helping to fill her father’s urn when she’d thought she’d have to do the job herself and glaring at the board members when they stepped out of line.

She should be able to do that herself. She can do that herself, normally. But her father would have been the first to tell her that this is far from a normal time. At least she can safely break when they retreat to bed for the night.

“That’s true, I suppose. I just… I can’t see the point of it right now.” She can’t see the point of much of anything. Intellectually, she knows there are very good reasons to do all this paperwork now, to keep trying to figure out what Ikutsuki was up to and how Tartarus is tied to it, to make sure Strega really won’t be causing them any more trouble… but her motivation has been lacking since Wednesday night.

“You should talk to Yukari when we get back.”

“Takeba? Why her?”

“Because I wasn’t even three yet when I got sent to the orphanage,” Shinjiro says, “and Aki and I were four when we met, so he probably can’t help you either. The twins never talk about their parents. Dunno how much Ken’s dad was ever in the picture, but it’s his mom he was closer to. And if Chidori’d had anyone in her corner she wouldn’t have been dragged into the Strega project. Yukari’s the one who’s been where you are - and if Ikutsuki’s fucking fake video is anything to go by, she’s been there recently, too.”

“You have a point there, I suppose.” If anyone can understand Mitsuru’s struggle to find her resolve, it’ll be Takeba - and it’s not that Shinjiro doesn’t understand at all, or he wouldn’t have made that suggestion in the first place.

“We’ll have to go back tomorrow,” she continues, more thinking out loud than expecting Shinjiro’s input. “Student council will need my approval to finalise plans for the school trip, and… I don’t want my mental state to lead to the whole thing being cancelled.”

Shinjiro nods. “Then I guess you better get your shit together on that paperwork, huh?”

Mitsuru almost cracks a smile at that. He’s right; the more of this she gets done before they leave, the better. If she cries herself to sleep for the sixth night in a row afterward, Shinjiro isn’t going to mind.

***

“The ocean is so blue, isn’t it?”

Makoto jolts out of his early-morning doldrums when Mochizuki speaks up next to him. He didn’t know they’d made it onto the same monorail car this morning. He also doesn’t know how Mochizuki got so close to him without Aigis raising the alarm, as quick as she’s been to step in every other time they’ve been within five meters of each other.

But he’s not exactly wrong, so Makoto nods. The monorail over the bay is easily the best part of the commute to Gekkoukan. But then he actually thinks about it, and frowns. “You already picked up color?”

“I don’t remember not having color vision, actually. It didn’t even occur to me it was anything significant until I heard other people talking about it. What about you?”

Makoto shrugs. “I was a kid. We never did figure out who it is.”

“Oh. Well, I’m sure you will someday. --Oh, we’re almost at the station. Maybe we should go somewhere after school, if you’d like to?”

“Maybe.” He’s not going to commit to anything this early in the day, but it’s a good option to have in his pocket, and Mochizuki doesn’t seem bothered by his vague answer.

In the end he takes the invitation - and they’re promptly swarmed by girls as they’re trying to leave school. A few of them say hi to Makoto, but mostly they’re clamoring for Mochizuki’s attention; he laughs it off with the most gentle letdown Makoto’s ever seen (he wishes he knew how to do that, but at least this year hasn’t been as bad in the accidental-harem department as last year was).

“I’m sorry, ladies, but I’ve already made plans for today - tell you what. I’ll make sure I see you in your dreams tonight, how about that?”

As the girls are busy swooning over that line, Mochizuki grabs Makoto’s hand and pulls him through the swarm. By the time they notice he’s gone, the two of them have made it off school grounds.

“Aren’t you supposed to be showing up in my dreams?” Makoto says, without really knowing why.

“I mean, if you really want me to, I can try to pencil you in.” Mochizuki goes to run his hand through his hair, only realising when he drags Makoto’s along partway that they’re still holding hands. “Oh, sorry.”

“I didn’t mind.”

“Well, that’s good to know, but Aigis-san might actually kill me if she sees that.” He sighs, looking more than a little forlorn for once. “I feel like I know her, too, but - it’s like it’s on the tip of my brain and I just can’t remember it.”

“You’ve been living overseas, though,” Makoto points out. “I don’t know when you would’ve met either of us.”

“I don’t either, but… I just can’t shake the feeling. I wonder why.”

Makoto shrugs. If Aigis and Minako are right, they’ll probably find out eventually, but he’s not sure any of them are going to be happy about it. “What did you want to do today?”

Mochizuki musters a smile again. “Oh, right. Could you show me around the city? I want to see all the places you like to go to.”

***

Some of the students have been complaining about Kyoto being the school’s default trip destination, with some of them calling it one last screw-you from Ekoda (especially this year, since even now that he’s gone the other teachers couldn’t agree on another destination in time to make the arrangements). Yukari doesn’t mind, though. It’s kind of like a homecoming, especially since her mother’s moved away again.

Maybe most people wouldn’t think of their own parents like that, but most people’s parents probably spent more time paying attention to their kid than trying to paper over their own grief. Still, just because Yukari understands better now doesn’t mean she’s ready to mend the bridge.

She’s a little surprised when Mitsuru-senpai approaches her in their downtime on the second day and asks to talk. They’re hardly close, for all they’ve been living in the same dorm and working together this entire school year.

Once they’re settled on the riverbank, away from potential eavesdroppers, Yukari says, “So… what’s up?”

“Shinjiro suggested I talk to you, actually. I’ve had a difficult time finding my resolve again after the events at the beginning of this month.”

Oh. Suddenly this makes a lot more sense. “You were just trying to protect your father this whole time, weren’t you?”

“And look where that got me. If not for Shinjiro’s friendship with Chidori-san, I would’ve been completely blindsided by that betrayal - and even with forewarning I fell right into his trap.”

“I mean, that was mostly because the trap was something we would’ve done anyway. The big Shadows were a problem, even if they didn’t solve the problem of the Dark Hour like we thought they would.”

Mitsuru-senpai sighs. “Still. I just wanted Father to be able to live with himself again. Ever since the incident, he looked like he was dead inside.”

“Oh, like you have for the last week?”

Mitsuru-senpai recoils, like Yukari had actually slapped her (to be fair, she’d been considering it).

“I know it feels like this was all for nothing right now,” Yukari continues. “That’s how I felt back in July, when we saw the fake video. But we don’t know that for sure yet. What I do know is my dad fought to the end to try to fix his mistakes, and yours did, too. I want to eliminate the Dark Hour and fulfill my dad’s final wish. What do you want to do?”

“...You’re right. Nothing has been decided yet. For the sake of those who passed the torch to us, we need to see this through. Yukari - will you stand with me until the end?”

Yukari grins. “You know it, senpai.”

***

“Kyoto was so much fun.”

They’re at Chagall Cafe again, at Ryoji’s insistence (and Makoto isn’t sure when they reached given-name basis, but they definitely have). Makoto can’t tell if they’re surrounded by couples again, or if that only ever happens when Ryoji points it out - but it’s happened twice in a row now, so he wouldn’t be surprised.

(“Why you, I wonder?” Good question, Ryoji.)

Makoto shrugs. “It was all right. Would’ve thought you’d at least regret getting caught in the springs by the girls.”

“It was a new experience, along with the rest of it. Besides, it’s not like there was a clock in there. How were we supposed to know we were out of time?”

It’s probably not worth pointing out that Shinjiro-senpai managed to keep track of the time, even if he only actually rescued Akihiko-senpai from getting into trouble.

“Oh, did you see this?” Ryoji holds up his hand, showing off a thin ring with a stone Makoto doesn’t recognise set on it. “I got it from one of the souvenir shops.”

“Where’s mine?” Makoto says, and immediately has to fight the urge to facepalm. Why does he keep saying this stuff to Ryoji?

Thankfully, Ryoji only laughs. “Next time. I just… wanted something as proof that I’d been there, you know? Something to tie to my memories of the trip. It already feels as natural as if I was born with it.”

“I hear jewelry’s like that.”

“It’s like rings bind memories to the person that wears them.”

“Maybe they do.” Makoto sure can’t think of a good argument against it.

“I hope I can collect more treasures like this as life goes on. I’m sure I will, if I’m with you.”

Either that or they’re all going to be completely miserable. Makoto can’t shake the feeling that whatever truth they’re dancing around is going to be fucking devastating. But it’s too late - Ryoji’s carefree smile swept him off his feet before he knew it was happening.

For once, he doesn’t want to say no.

***

Tonight’s the night.

Shinjiro agreed that the plan the others came up with was as sound as any plan gambling with Chidori’s life is going to be. She’s still not sure they’ll have a chance to put it into play, or that it’ll work at all, but part of why she gave up on Takaya and Jin was so that she had a choice other than resigning herself to her fate.

She’s not scared; she hasn’t been scared of this moment in years. She doesn’t want to lose the few true friends she’s got, but if she dies anyway, so be it. At least they tried.

The Dark Hour sets in without any other incidents preceding it. Chidori had half expected as much. She heads to the command room and finds Yamagishi has beaten her there.

“What sort of scanning range do you have with your Persona?”

“Most of the city,” Yamagishi says. “It’s easier if there’s a particularly large Shadow, or if I have detailed information about the person I’m looking for or know them very well already, but we haven’t had someone in the group leave my scanning range yet.”

Chidori nods. “Look for Takaya and Jin. They know the significance of tonight. They’ll be out somewhere.”

Yamagishi frowns, but she summons her Persona readily enough. Chidori can’t blame the others for hoping Takaya and Jin actually managed to leap to their deaths at the beginning of the month, but she doubts they were so lucky.

She’s not surprised in the slightest when Yamagishi picks up their presence near Tartarus.

“Have you tried a communication channel at that distance?”

“Not quite that far, no, but I don’t know of any reason it wouldn’t work. You - you can’t possibly want to tell them you’re coming?”

Chidori shrugs. “They’re already expecting me, so I might as well. Open the channel and I’ll do the rest.”

She’s running on instinct to speak through Yamagishi’s Persona, but once she has the channel, she rests her hand on the Persona’s shield bubble and focuses on breaking through to the two people who know what she’s been through like no one else ever will - and yet, they never understood her in the slightest. “Long time no see. I can’t stand the sight of you two anymore, so I’ve decided to do something about it. Wait for me.”

“You’re not going alone,” Junpei says, from the command room’s doorway.

Chidori snorts. “As though I thought you or Shinjiro would let me. And where you two go, the others are likely to follow.”

“Of course we will.” Yamagishi sounds like she thinks it’s obvious; it isn’t that clear to Chidori at all, but she won’t protest.

Try not to sweep in and be a hero, Junpei. I know how to handle these two.”

When they get to Tartarus, Takaya and Jin are waiting. Takaya even smiles. “It is good to see you again. Surely you understand by now that there is nowhere else for you to--”

She lashes out with her axe before he can finish the sentence. Chidori does have somewhere else to go, and she found it without his help.

The fight that follows is short, but intense. Chidori’s out of practice, and Takaya’s capable of hitting her weak spot - but she’s just as capable of hitting his, and Jin’s no trouble as long as she remembers to watch for his grenades. She can at least keep them from interfering with the others.

“Oh, Chidori. I see that it is too late - they’ve poisoned you.”

“You’re the only poisonous one here, Takaya. Was jumping off bridges not interesting enough for you?”

“Fate permitted me to live, even though I was not attached to life. You might say I was… chosen.”

Too late, she sees that Takaya’s drawn his gun.

Too late, she sees Junpei diving in front of her.

There’s only one thing she can think to do. Medea’s Spring of Life has sustained Chidori to this point, but if Junpei has it, then he can pull through this. Maybe it won’t work like they’re hoping it will, but she has to try.

She takes Junpei’s clammy hand and wills Medea to go to him - and he wakes up, the wound in his stomach closing as she watches.

“She’s yours now,” she says, not sure if even Junpei will hear it. “Take good care of her, and if I do survive this…”

She doesn’t know how to finish the thought, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that Junpei will live to see tomorrow, whether she does or not.

Her mind strangely silent for the first time in years, Chidori lets unconsciousness claim her.

***

The next day, Junpei goes to the hospital and sits by Chidori’s bed. “Hey. I know you said you hate hospitals, but, well…”

She can’t hear him right now anyway, probably. Maybe. There’s stuff that says unconscious people do hear people talking around them sometimes, but Junpei has no idea how anyone would prove it. But he’s not going to leave her here alone, with a bunch of beeping monitors for company.

(They are beeping. That’s a good thing. Maybe their stupid plan worked.)

“Might skip Career Experience and just come here instead. I mean, I don’t need to experience how boring work is, they’re just looking for free labor and convinced the school it’ll make ‘em look good.” And he’d feel better about being here. He probably can’t get away with skipping the whole week, but he can sure as hell try.

“We kicked their asses for you. Well, you did a pretty good job of that yourself, but Shinjiro-senpai and I made sure they couldn’t follow us.” Junpei sighs. “They’re still not dead, because that would be too easy, but Takaya sure thought you were. He should at least leave you alone now.

“Medea and Hermes kinda… joined together? Makoto said they ‘fused,’ whatever that means. Still dunno why you gave her to me, of all people. I mean, I’m not really worth it, am I?”

It could’ve just been that he was there, and keeping Medea would’ve probably guaranteed Chidori’s death, the way she was so sure about dying. But he doesn’t really think that’s it. He thinks she wanted to, and that’s - well, honestly it’s kinda terrifying. How could Takaya call that meaningless?

“Takaya seems to think he’s on some kind of ‘mission’ now, like we didn’t have enough to worry about. But that’s not really any different than the Dark Hour still being around and us having no idea how to stop it now, I guess.”

Junpei runs out of things to say, but he can’t bring himself to leave yet. He just sits there, holding Chidori’s hand and listening to the monitors beep, until a nurse comes by and kicks him out for the night.

Minako surprises him the next morning by falling into step next to him on his way out of the dorm. “What’re you - I’m not going to school,” he tries to say, but she just grins.

“Oh, I know. I’m not either. If I wanna experience a career, I’ll go pick up a shift at the movie theater or Chagall Cafe and get paid for my trouble. Chidori needs you, and you need me.”

***

Minako ends up picking up a couple shifts at Chagall Cafe, partly to appease the teachers for skipping a day of Career Experience and partly because the whole week is less irritating when she’s at least working somewhere familiar. Makoto’s stuck at Wild Duck Burger for the whole thing, and all he has to say about it after the first day is that the trash is unbelievable.

She’s wrapping up the last shift of the batch when Makoto comes in, apparently done with his own work - but before she can catch him, Mochizuki waves him over to a table. Minako doesn’t set out to eavesdrop, but she doesn’t try to avoid their conversation, either. (She’s trying not to worry about Mochizuki too hard, but… it’s not easy. She just wants Mako to be okay.)

“Is Junpei-kun all right?” Mochizuki says. “He skipped most of Career Experience, and the one day he was there, he was really distracted. I tried asking him, but I’m not sure if he even heard me.”

“He’s… a friend of his is in the hospital. It’s still pretty touch and go. He’s been worried about her.”

“I see.” There’s a clink and a slurp before Mochizuki continues. “But… people die. It happens all the time, and you just have to accept it.”

Minako risks a look at the table, and sees Makoto staring at Mochizuki, with a faint frown that speaks volumes to her.

“What is it? Do you think I’m being too cold?” (He absolutely is, in Minako’s opinion, especially since Chidori’s not even dead and Junpei’s just worried about the chance she’ll die anyway, despite their best efforts to save her. But she’s not the one having this conversation.)

“Not necessarily. That just sounds like something someone else told me recently. The same as the blowing of the wind?”

“I - maybe? That sounds… familiar. I think.” Now Mochizuki sounds like he has a headache or something. “I’m sorry, can we change the subject?”

Makoto must have shrugged or something, because Mochizuki keeps talking. “Do you think there’s anything I can do to help Junpei-kun?”

“Don’t take that angle when you talk to him again, for one thing.”

Mochizuki laughs. “That’s fair. It’s not very supportive, is it?”

***

Makoto’s not sure what it is about Ryoji, still, but… he’s starting to form a theory.

He doesn’t like it at all, and Minako’s probably going to kill him, and Aigis is probably going to kill both of them. He doesn’t want to be right, but the things Ryoji says just sound so much like Pharos sometimes that--

He doesn’t even know how that would be possible. But frankly, it wouldn’t be the weirdest thing to happen this school year, which says a lot about how Makoto’s standards have changed in the last seven months.

In any case, he can’t bring himself to stay away. Not when Ryoji suggests they sneak onto the school roof on a Sunday afternoon. Not when he comes up with things like ‘the fact that tomorrow will come scares me.’ Not when Ryoji says Makoto is more precious to him than his own life.

Minako’s definitely going to kill him. His inability to say no is setting him up for heartache all over again, but - Ryoji’s important. So is Aigis. If she could stop seeing a threat where there isn’t necessarily one, he bets Ryoji and Aigis would be important to each other, too.

On Tuesday, the day before a full moon Makoto’s trying like hell not to think about too closely, Ryoji comes over to the dorm. It’s something he’s been doing for the last couple weeks, mostly to hang out with Iori, but this time he makes a beeline for Makoto’s room.

He pauses in the doorway, frowning. “This… is the first time I’ve been in here, isn’t it?”

Makoto shrugs. “I don’t know. Is it?”

“It must be. I don’t know, maybe I just wanted to see it so badly it came to me in a vision.”

“Smooth.”

Ryoji laughs, but then they both sit on Makoto’s bed - Makoto up near his pillow and Ryoji perched at the foot - and Makoto has such a strong sense of deja vu it damn near gives him vertigo.

“I think… did I get this wrong? If we were just friends, would it hurt so much to be here?” He musters a smile before Makoto can answer, and adds, “I’m glad I met you, either way.”

“Me too.” Because he is. Despite Minako’s reservations, despite whatever it is that has Aigis so paranoid around Ryoji, Makoto can’t help but be glad to know him.

“You shouldn’t give so much of yourself to me, Makoto. I’ll probably just make you sad.”

“It’s worth the risk,” Makoto says, and he hopes he’s not wrong.

Ryoji falls silent, fiddling with the ring he got in Kyoto. He looks - Makoto isn’t sure. Conflicted? Miserable? Resigned to something? All three?

“Touch me, Makoto,” he finally says. “Make me feel - make sure we both know I exist.”

Touching Ryoji turns into kissing him, which turns into things no one else he’s dated has ever asked for - but that’s all right. Makoto was about to ask for them himself.

***

Aigis has yet to comprehend her reaction to Mochizuki-san.

He still registers to her sensors as dangerous. Minako-san agrees that they should be cautious around him, and Mitsuru-san and the other seniors do not disregard Aigis’ statements. But Junpei-san has already come to consider him a close friend, and Makoto-san…

Makoto-san and Mochizuki-san have become very close. Aigis is more concerned about that than anything, frankly. But even Minako-san says there will be no convincing Makoto-san of things he does not come to see on his own.

She does not know what instinct drives her, on the afternoon preceding the full moon, to plug herself into the command room console and review some content in her memory banks. Perhaps it is the looming anniversary of the Dark Hour’s creation. Perhaps it is desperation on her part, to see the truth, to understand what is happening.

She is a machine; she should have no need for desperation.

But she is a machine capable of wielding a Persona, and this would not be the first time the Kirijo Group research team failed to account for all variables within its robotics program.

She disregards the memory files inherited from her sister units. Someday, perhaps, if they have time, they should look into what exactly happened to Labrys and see if she can be restored to normal function, rather than left deactivated and gathering dust in Yakushima - but today is not that day. Her own memory files of her testing phase are not very detailed, and Aigis finds she prefers it that way. (Another thing she should not have: preferences.

Preferences, desperation, color vision… the list of things that set Aigis apart from other machines, even from the intentions of her creators, keeps growing.)

She can likewise disregard the memory files created since she awoke on Yakushima and knew immediately that a person of the highest priority was in the vicinity. Those will not be useful to understanding her current situation, and if for some reason they are, she will not need to review them the same way. The few conversations she had with Ikutsuki-san when he came to the lab to work, and the times she was tasked with cleaning the lab, are irrelevant.

That leaves the night of the accident that created the Dark Hour.

The file begins with a greyscale explosion, so recorded because her visual receptors did not gain color until later in the night. Flames overtake the facility, and a dark shape emerges from the wreckage, heading in the direction of the city.

No one ordered Aigis to pursue the Shadow; she had simply known that it was her purpose to do so. This was, quite literally, what she and her sisters were built for - but none of her sisters joined her in pursuit. She did not learn until after the fact that the rest of the seventh generation of Anti-Shadow Suppression Weapons were obliterated in the explosion, or caught in skirmishes that damaged them beyond repair.

The first oddity of the memory file sets in shortly after Aigis catches up with the Shadow on the Moonlight Bridge. The moment she makes contact with the Shadow and engages it in combat, the night sky takes on the greenish cast associated with the Dark Hour. Given that Aigis had been in the midst of attempting to subdue the Shadow, she did not pause to take note of the visual anomaly.

She notices, watching it now, that it is only partial color vision. It is difficult to tell in the low light, but she recalls several blue cars frozen in place on the bridge, and the blurs of them in the background of the combat are simple grey.

The combat draws to a stalemate near the wreckage of a car that had apparently careened into the side of the bridge as the Dark Hour set in (Aigis is not sure how that was possible, but it did so nonetheless). Two small children have emerged from the wreck; she can make out mangled coffins in the front seats.

The Shadow was released from confinement by the explosion, and Aigis knew at the time that it was a mere fragment of its whole. It had stood to reason that the Shadow could be confined again, but there were only two suitable vessels nearby - and one, recognising her motions as a possible threat, moved to protect the other, as if on instinct.

Makoto-san and Minako-san were so young. Aigis still struggles to understand the human aging process, but she can see the resemblance in their faces. Makoto-san’s hair takes on its distinctive blue tones in the file as her hand, and the Shadow, make contact with his tiny body.

That… that explains a great deal.

Her purpose is to subdue and eliminate Shadows. She knows what she must do tonight.