I woke up that morning refreshed, not surprising since I slept like a log. With today’s goal in mind, Jaidenenk and I quickly got through our breakfast and got ready to go back to the Dream Realm to save Ari as soon as possible. Before we headed out, Jaidenenk stopped me outside of my room.
“Shinji, I couldn't say this yesterday since I was Gelert-tired, but thank you. Hearing that you would stick by me, that you’d still be my friend. That meant a lot to me, especially after all my fears were laid bare like that.” Jaidenenk said.
“Hey, it’s no problem man. You and Arianoli are the first friends I've had in forever and you two just so quickly accepting me as a friend. No one has ever done that for me before and I remember how nice it is to have friends now.” I said with a smile.
“So you really don’t mind that I was a tomb-robber?” Jaidenenk asked.
“Really, I don't mind at all. It's in the past and you had your reasons. I feel like with the kind of person you are, you wouldn’t have done it if you had the choice.” I replied. “Anyway, your Nightmare said something else interesting.”
“Oh yeah?” Jaidenenk said, looking a bit nervous.
“I didn't forget it said that you like Arianoli.” I whispered in his ear. Jaidenenk went an interesting shade of tomato, which said all I needed to know. “When were you going to tell her that?” I asked him.
“Never! She's too good for me!” Jaidenenk replied, flustered.
“Honestly, I think you might find she feels the same, on love and on not caring what you were in the past.” I said.
“You really think so?” Jaidenenk said. I nodded, confident in what I was saying.
“You two have been close for years, right? Why wouldn’t she want to get closer to a cool guy like you who has all the girls staring at him?” I said with a grin.
“Girls stare at me? I actually never noticed.” Jaidenenk said.
“Of course you didn’t. It happens when you have eyes for only one.” I teased.
“Oh ha, ha. Come on, Shinji. Let’s go save Ari and let’s see if we can do it in style.” Jaidenenk said, breaking out into a grin. Then the tingly feeling came back along with Janus speaking to me in my head.
Thou art I and I am thou
Thou hast established a new bond
Thou must nurture this newfound bond
So it may give thee thy strength on the path ahead
Thou shalt now be blessed
When creating Personas of the Chariot Arcana
Another Arcana from tarot. I really needed to ask Igor about this. Then I remembered where I was and that Jaidenenk was still looking at me expectantly. I quickly nodded to Jaidenenk, hoping he hadn't noticed the lapse.
Back in Arianoli’s dreamworld, we swept the first floor of the mansion again to make sure that we hadn't missed anything. After finding nothing new, we decided to move on to the second floor. I felt slightly more confident about exploring having three Goho-m’s in hand that Seriya had given me. A Goho-m would take us straight out of Ari’s dreamworld and back into the Dream Realm, which was useful if Jaidenenk and I got into a tight spot and needed to get out right there and then.
“If this is truly the Boardare Mansion in dreamform, my quarters and other empty quarters should be on this floor. Also, I think that Arianoli may be on the third floor as that’s where her quarters are” Jaidenenk said. He had knowledge of the Boardare Mansion, having stayed there for long periods of time.
“Yeah, but to get up to the third floor we need to use the elevator and to use it we need a keycard.” I said.
“If it is required to proceed, a Shadow must have it.” Seriya informed us.
“Oh, marvelous.” I said sarcastically. Jaidenenk patted, or more aptly, pounded my back making me stagger a little.
“Eh, we’ll take down any Shadows that stand our way easily.” He said, brimming with confidence. I shrugged, figuring he was probably right. The first Shadows we ran into was another Pixie like the several we had run into before.
“Wait! I have one more thing to teach you!” Seriya called, stalling us. “There is something else you can do when you exploit an enemies weakness. You can talk to Shadows and ask them to offer items or money in exchange for their life. Shadows often carry all sorts of items and Neopoints. They were created in a place meant for Neopets and Faeries so it makes sense they would value the same things. Now, hit that Pixie with something that it’s weak to.”
I had higher speed than Jaiden so I went first. I shot down the Pixie with my pistol and as went into position for the All-Out-Attack, I spoke up.
“Hey, you! We’ll spare you if you have any money or items to give us!” I said to the Pixie. The Pixie looked up at me and actually spoke.
“You would really let me go if I gave you money or an item? Well, this is super awkward because I actually don’t have anything on me.” She replied.
“Oh my. That is awkward and ruins my teaching moment too.” Seriya muttered.
“Wait, although I may not have anything, there is something I can do for you. I can just offer myself! I remembered I’m not a Shadow.” The Pixie said.
“Wha?” Jaidenenk said, looking as confused as I felt.
“I’m Pixie and as long as you take care of me, I am you.” The Pixie said and suddenly she turned into a glittering light that went into my Dreamcatcher. I knew that somehow, I now had two Personas.
“What?! You, you made that Pixie into a second Persona?!” Seriya said in shock.
“Um… Yes?” I said, just as shocked and bewildered.
“Aw, no fair! Why do you get two Personas?” Jaidenenk said, looking rather envious.
“Well, that was a surprise, but this is good! We can use this to our advantage!” Seriya said, a note of excitement in her voice. “Since you seem to able to wield multiple Personas, you’ll be very versatile and be able to handle any situation or take any job in battle. Of course, I believe those who can only hold one Persona like Jaidenenk will always do what their Persona does best, better than what you can with a similar Persona. Just keep that in mind.”
I nodded, filing what Seriya had said away for when I needed it.
We continued on and entered Jaidenenk’s quarters. The first room was big and rather empty.
“Uh, there’s five rooms to each quarters including the bathroom and bedroom. I’ve only got stuff in my bedroom and one other room. I’m working on it through.” Jaidenenk said sheepishly.
“No worries man. I don’t think I could fill up five rooms this big either.” I admitted. After going through two more empty rooms until arriving in Jaidenenk’s bedrooms and finding a person in dark armour, riding what looked like a red, wingless and hornless Uni. He looked more powerful than most of the Shadows we’d already met.
“He looks important. Think he’s got the keycard?” Jaidenenk whispered to me.
“Well, there’s really only one way to find out.” I whispered back. We approached the Shadow and it spoke.
“I was told to expect your arrival.” It said, then it held up the keycard we were looking for. “I was told you’d want this. Come at me, if you dare to.”
“Oh, we dare!” Jaidenenk said and we both jumped into battle.
“That’s a Berith of the Hierophant Arcana. Something messing up my scan though so I don’t know what it’s weakness is!” Seriya said. It ended up that whatever the Berith was weak to, we didn’t have it, so we just had to pound it into the ground as hard as we could. We eventually defeated it and got the keycard. Jaidenenk picked up the keycard and let out a long-suffering sigh.
“Aw… This is an employee keycard. Employees aren’t allowed on Ari’s floor. We need a house-member card and if there isn’t one in here, it must be in Andrés office, which we will be able to get to with this.” He explained. After he said that a weird feeling swept through the room and I heard Arianoli’s voice echo throughout it.
“Jaidenenk is such a nice guy. I feel no shame whatsoever having him as my friend. No matter what those snobs think. They think they I shouldn’t associate with those under my social standing. Why should we gave a damn about that?Their ancestors weren’t so different before they came into their money and my Daddy wasn’t so different either. But they’ll never understand and while it never shows on the outside, my heart always bleeds on the inside because I’ll never be good enough. I’d never tell him what they think of him though. He doesn’t deserve that pain being heaped on him as well.”
The weird feeling passed as Arianoli’s last words faded away.
“I… I would have been able to bear it if she had let me.” Jaidenenk said. “I’m used to being shit-talked.”
“Well, we better get to Arianoli so you can tell her that.” I said to him.
We took the elevator to the fourth floor, the floor where all the work for the Boardare Corporation took place. We worked our way down to Andrés’, Arianoli’s father’s, office only to find we needed a key to get into the office which was either in the possession of a Shadow or was laying out on the floor somewhere. We searched thoroughly encountering there new Shadows called Silky, Agathion and Succubus. I managed to get an Agathion on my side, bringing my Persona count up to three. Jaidenenk still seemed a little jealous, but kept his head in the game. We soon came across a fancy lounge room decked out in red velvet and dark leather. A crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling.
“Never been in this room.” Jaidenenk murmured.
“Sure is swanky.” I replied. And mysteriously shadow-free. I thought to myself. Then I spied a keyring with a bunch of golden keys. It was obvious that one of them was the right key. I tried to pick up the key ring but was instantly repelled straight into a wall. Ouch.
“Geez! Are you okay, man?!” Jaiden asked me as he helped me back on my feet.
“Yeah, I’m alright. Just didn’t expect to be pushed back by a bunch of keys.” I said. Then a black figure rose from the floor and picked up the keyring.
“Only one.” It hissed. Its meaning was clear, we could only choose one key.
“Right, any ideas on what the right one is?” I asked.
“Don’t look at me. I know nothing.” Seriya replied.
“Dang, I never saw the key. But I do remember Ari telling me the key to her Dad’s office was not the kind of key a rich man would use.” Jaidenenk said. I thought on this for a while. Not the kind of key a rich man would use. None of the glittering golden keys seemed to fit the description, them all being so ornate and shiny. Then I spotted a dull, silver key hiding amongst the rest of the keys. As I looked at it, I got a strong feeling that it was the right key and without thinking I pointed at it and said,
“That’s the one.”
And it dropped from the keyring into my hand.
“You have chosen wisely. Fyoraspeed to you.” The black figure said and disappeared along with the rest of the keys.
“I guess this is the one.” I said.
“She was right. It is rather plain and dull, not something you’d think a rich man would use. Probably the idea.” Jaidenenk added. Then the weird feeling we felt in Jaidenenk’s room came again and new voices came with it.
“Oh, Miss Boardare! Would you consider meeting my son? He’s very interested in meeting you.”
“Interested in my money you mean.”
“Miss Arianoli! Such a perfect young lady you are! You must have suitors lining up to marry you.”
“Only for my status.”
“Arianoli, why do you associate with that common boy?”
“He’s my friend…”
“Ugh, you shouldn’t be friends with commoners!”
“Why not, Jaidenenk’s just as much of a person as we are.”
“He’s not of the correct pedigree.”
“And unless you want to be Nouveau Riche forever, you’ll marry someone of your social standing.”
“And that common Kougra is far below you.”
“He’s a disgrace and you’ll be too if you keep being around him.”
“No, that’s not true! Stop it. Stop it! STOP IT! AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!”
Jaidenenk and I winced at the scream at the end.
“I had no idea she had to deal with all of that…” Jaidenenk said quietly.
“It is quite sickening. Whom she spends her time with is her choice and her business.” Seriya said, looking disgusted.
“I think both times we just heard what Arianoli’s truly afraid of. She’s afraid of the criticism and attention she gets just because of her wealth, looks and status because she fears its all others will ever see her for in the end.” I said sadly. Jaidenenk straightened his shoulders, a new determination shone in his eyes.
“Well, we’ll show her that’s not the case. We see her for the great person she is and we’ll prove that to her! Right, Shinji?” He said.
“You betcha!” I replied.
Of course, things could never be easy for us. When I unlocked the office door, we found a Shadow waiting for us. It was a humanoid wearing armour with a pair of feathery wings sticking out the back of it. Naturally it had the key. But it wasn’t one for words and attacked us as soon as we had stepped through the door, keycard in hand.
“Sorry, guys. You’re on your own. All I’m getting here is that it’s called an Archangel and it’s of the Justice Arcana!” Seriya said. Her scanning abilities were leaving much to be desired. Thankfully, Jaidenenk was able to take it down with his Zio spell and with the All-Out-Attack on top of that, it fell to our might. Jaidenenk picked up the card and smiled.
“Yes! This is exactly the keycard we need! We can now get to Arianoli’s floor!” Jaidenenk said.
“It’s likely the Boss Nightmare is there. I hope you two are ready for a big fight.” Seriya said. Jaidenenk and I both knew we were more than ready. We were going to kick ass.
We arrived on the fourth floor and rushed to Arianoli’s room and found two Arianolis. The one wearing the Shenkuu Imperial High School uniform was quite obviously the real one as the one facing her was was wearing a black dress with a printed heart that seemed to be bleeding.
“Oh, an audience! How delightful!” The other Arianoli said. It spoke with Arianoli’s voice overlaid with same sinister voice Nightmare Jaidenenk’s voice was.
“What are you two doing here?! Get out of here!” The real Arianoli yelled at us.
“Oh dear. Neither of us seem to have our manners today, hm? Well, let me fix that in my case. You may call me Nightmare Arianoli.” Nightmare Arianoli said with a sickly grin. “As for you, why do you want our audience to leave? Oh I get it. You’re afraid aren’t you? Afraid for them to know about how much of a bleeding heart you are. How you decided to attend a boarding high school just so you could get away from everyone who criticised you and only associated with you because of money. But it didn’t end now did it? It just followed you except everyone just talks about everything behind your back. About your wealth, about your status, about your looks and about your disgraceful crush on-.”
“No! Don’t say it!” Arianoli pleaded.
“Say what? Say you have an endless crush on Jaidenenk Cloud who is standing right there? Oops.” Nightmare Arianoli said. The heart on her dress began to bleed profusely.
“Wait a minute, what?” Jaidenenk said, his mind obviously mind blown even though it was not the time for that.
“I, I didn’t want you to know.” Arianoli sobbed.
“I know every single skeleton in your closet, dear. You’re scared of them and in turn are scared of me. After all, I am your Nightmare.” Nightmare Arianoli said. It then transformed into a princess, locked in chains with a bleeding heart on her chest. “And now her crush and friend will die!” Nightmare Arianoli gloated.
“Arianoli’s fear it too great for you to fight it!” Seriya said in a panic.
“Jaidenenk! You’ve got to say something to her! You’re the only one that could snap her out of this?” I called to him.
I heard Shinji call out to me and I knew he was right. But what could I say that would convey how much she meant to me? Then the answer suddenly came to me. No words were needed. I made my way to the real Arianoli, doing my best to dodge Nightmare Arianoli’s strikes. I then kneeled down in front of her. Arianoli looked at me, tears in her eyes and her blond hair in tangles. I gave her a big hug, the biggest hug I had ever given her and just in case the message wasn’t quite clear. I spoke to her.
“Arianoli, I like you for the person you are! You’re brave, feisty, loyal, kind-hearted and most of all, you saw worth in a worthless street orphan like me. You saw my blind eye and didn’t look at me with a mix of disgust and pity. You accepted me for who I am and I will always accept you for who you are. Shinji will too. We know you are so much more than wealth, looks and status and whoever thinks that you aren’t isn’t even worth a microsecond of your time… I love you, Arianoli.”
I gasped. Did Jaidenenk just say that he loved me? And not just that, that he loved me for who I was? And that Shinji liked me for who I was too? I looked at his eyes and he wasn’t wearing his contact lense, all his eyes had was sincerity. I then knew that with Jaidenenk and Shinji by my side I had nothing to be afraid of. Much less my Nightmare who was truly quite pathetic.
“You know. I am scared of all those things, some more than others. But I have good friends by my side and with them I have the power to overcome anything, including you! I am not scared of you!” I said to my Nightmare. Jaidenenk’s face broke out into a grin and I was sure Shinji’s did too. My Nightmare screamed in anguish. Pain suddenly wracked my body and I almost wanted to cry again from the pain. A voice began to speak. “You’ve learned that no one’s opinion of you really matters besides your own. You’re beautiful no matter what. Are you ready to show the beauty you have within as well as the beauty on the outside?” It said. “Let’s dazzle the world and beguile everyone who would dare stand against our love for the world!”
“You’re on!” I replied, feeling more alive than I had felt in ages.
“I was hoping you would say that! I am thou and thou art I! Let us spread love and beauty to all.”
A pink and white dreamcatcher, the strings in the middle forming a heart, appeared before me. I grabbed it and my own Persona burst out of it. She was a beautiful Royal Wocky with long lustrous blond hair. She wore very skimpy pink and white clothes that barely covered her breasts and butt and flat out showed a lot of skin.
“Hello, Persona.” I said.
“I am Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love! I’m every bit as gorgeous as I a, thou and thou is me!”
Arianoli’s Persona was enough to even make the most steadfast monk blush with how beautiful she was. Trust a beautiful girl to have a beautiful Persona.
“Shinji, the Nightmare is weakened enough. Attack it now!” Seriya informed me.
“Hey, Arianoli! Want to join Jaidenenk and me in kicking the ever-loving heck out of your Nightmare?” I called to Ari.
“Do I ever! Let’s go, Aphrodite!” She replied.
“Time to kick some butt!” Jaidenenk said enthusiastically. And kick butt we did. It was mostly physical with us, but it’s sole magic attack, Bloody Tears was pretty powerful, so powerful that when it telegraphed that it was going to use it, we all guarded. But it was weak to Aphrodite’s Bufu spell, which Arianoli dished out with no hesitation. Despite that, Nightmare Arianoli was resilent, even with the debuffs we were dropping on her. But we managed to quite handily beat her and it shrunk out of existence.
“Your nightmare is over now, Ari. Now you should be able to wake up in the real world.” I told Arianoli.
“I know. Thank you both, for coming to save me. I would have slept forever if it weren’t for you. I’ll see you in the waking world.” Arianoli said. “And Jaidenenk? We need to have a talk.”
“Got it.” Jaidenenk said weakly. Then Arianoli disappeared with a flash of light.
“Time to go home. Let’s all get out of here so I can get you two home.” Seriya said.
Jaidenenk and I decided we’ll go and see Arianoli tomorrow. Saving her from her Nightmare had taken its toll on us and we didn’t want to fall asleep in fromt of her. For once, my sleep was not troubled by dreams and I could only hope that was a good thing.