Cutscene: Silent Reflections

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Perhaps we should break reality more often.

Masumi purses her lips contemplatively as she finds her fingers bringing these words up onto the screen of the journal program, sitting before a sleek laptop in her KNOWS' dorm. One delicate hand reaches up to run subconsciously through long silver hair as she considers whether to delete them and start over, or merely leave them and carry on. She finally settles on the latter.

It's a foolish idea, of course, if only for the most pragmatic of reasons that there is never any guarantee that we will be able to fix it afterward every time -- regardless of the success seen in Mikage-Cho and thus far with this incident as well. The formation of a tentative pattern does not in any way make a guarantee of the future, and whatever knowledge may be gleaned from the fracturing and fixing of reality, it is ultimately worthless if even one time we are unable to rectify what has been broken and, say, reality itself is erased.

Still, I find myself boundlessly fascinated as I listen to the ripples spreading throughout reality -- SEES must have been successful in procuring the key from Yuuka Chiba/Yuume-mi either through diplomacy or force -- and unlike the fractures, many of which unfortunately remain, there is a certain...purity to them, as if ripples upon the most holy and pristine of pools of water. It is a mending, a healing on the deepest of levels, and by listening to them, focusing upon them, I have been able to finally meditate peacefully once again for the first time since reality began to fall out of alignment.

But yes, it is deeply fascinating, being witness to the mending of reality; 'watching' so to speak as I feel within my own mind an alternate set of memories rising to the surface. There's no question that it's an amazingly fluid process, nor that these are the 'correct' memories -- but even more amazing is that the 'incorrect' memories also remain, which ultimately means that I retain the experiences despite the fact that from an objective standpoint they in fact never happened at all. Truly, it's exhilarating on an intensely heady level, being able to, with effort and focus, lay out within the mind's eye two parallel but alternate paths of experience.

One of them is the 'correct' path from a strictly objective standpoint, and yet from a more subjective standpoint, both of them happened -- both of them are as 'real' to me as the other. This raises a whole host of new questions to consider, that are at once exhilarating yet intensely terrifying, particularly as I explore these memories and ripples further. For example, I met Yuuka Chiba once in Mikage-Cho within the bounds of the unaltered timeline, and she is/was a completely different person than the idol singer I witnessed within the altered timeline. But perhaps this is not the best of examples since she *chose* to change her past.

Perhaps the case of Azusa Shimegi is better. Exploring these memories, I did/do not know her within the limits of the altered timeline, yet I encountered her twice within the bounds of the unaltered timeline -- she had no attachment to NWO within the former, yet most certainly does within the bounds latter. Like Yuuka, this is surely a very significant change, yet one she *had no control over.* If it is our memories and experiences which make us who we are -- and though there is obviously a certain foundation dictated by genetics, I believe this follows both logically and through what can observed through this altering of time -- then we are left a series of terrifying questions.

Are we then left completely at the whim of circumstance? Are those that believe in fate correct? Are we merely left with nothing more than the illusion of control over who we are and what we do? Yuuka choose to walk an alternate path by changing the timestream, and yet Auzsa had no choice in the matter, nor did any others which were affected by this change. But even in a more mundane sense, it is obvious that Azusa was on a completely different path because and *only* because someone(s) else did something differently some time in the past. Could it thusly be derived as true that we are ultimately controlled by the collective actions of everyone else in the world?

Every experience we have is created by the actions of another person, and it is those experiences which make us who we are right at this very moment. And in turn who we are on a fundamental level determines what actions we take, which in turn send out more ripples which create experiences for other people, the aggregate of which determine who *they* are, and so on. Ultimately I believe there is no denying this to be true, particularly once more after what we have physically observed through this altering of time. We are all connected on a deeply intrinsic level, perhaps to the point that individualism is ultimately nothing more than a clever illusion.

Perhaps it could be said that the *true* question is not whether our fates are so connected to the fates of everyone else, but instead the manner in which we choose -- if in fact it can be said to be choosing at all, for once again the answer is determined by our fundamental natures, which are in turn determined by our experiences, which are in turn determined by the actions of everyone around us, and so on -- to view this.

Will we view it negatively, and fall to despair that 'choice' is merely an illusion, that we are controlled by forces beyond our control -- or do we view it positively, and see the greatest and most glorious of potentials within the fact that each person in the world is so instrinsicly connected to the other? That we are perhaps merely all individual expressions of a collective consciousness?

Fascinating. Truly fascinating. And verily, if we choose the latter, then we are compelled by the very nature of reality and our own instinctive self-interest to do what we can to positively impact the people around us. And in turn, those which care only for themselves and thereby negatively impact the people around them are ultimately harming themselves as well. A path of selfishness and 'unethical' and 'immoral' choices is ultimately -- strictly within the bounds of raw pragmatism and ignoring any systems of artificial morality -- self-destructive. And yet humans are motivated to self-interest on the most instinctual of levels.

Taking it a step further, one could then say this to be the source of the so-called 'conscience,' that quiet inner voice which gives us guidance between 'right' and 'wrong.' And yet like any other word in our language, 'right' and 'wrong' are merely artificial constructs to help us describe complex concepts -- but most people never go below the surface, never truly wish to discover /why/ something is 'right' or 'wrong,' and in doing so many are further able to justify actions which are 'wrong.'

At the most basic level, something is 'evil' or 'wrong' because it is harmful to the collective. This is given importance because we are each one of us individual expressions of the collective. 'Morality,' then, is given weight and deep importance on the most basic and pragmatic of levels: strict self-interest. We do not require a 'higher power' to dictate 'morality' to us as many religions believe, nor is 'morality' an 'outdated' or 'trite' concept, as those that would justify their own actions might say.

No. 'Morality' can ultimately be concluded to be a fundamental and immutable tenant of what it means to be human, and those that would cast it aside are as self-destructive as the person that would try to cast aside eating.

Masumi exhales deeply as she rises from the chair at this point, hands shaking slightly from exhilaration and adrenaline. Stepping away from the computer, she spends the next ten minutes pacing the room, giving her thoughts a moment to cycle before writing anything further. A bottle of water is cracked open and drained fully before she finally sits back down with renewed energy, spacing down several times before starting to type again.

However, the full implications of what I have written above cannot, I believe, be truly assimilated by any person except through a very great deal of time. Thus, for now, I will turn these musings to subjects of a more personal nature.

The more I play back over the meeting with Newman-san two days ago, the more I find myself believing that she was in fact correct -- I very much do need to 'get ahold of myself.' Examining my actions and feelings of the last several days, it is very clear that I need to step back and allow my mind a greater time to cycle before moving forward any further; this is particularly poignant in the way the aura about Newman-san so deeply frustrated me, as well as my complete and unacceptable lack of clarity at Yumme-mi's concert Monday, regardless of whether or not that objectively happened within the current timeline.

Part of this surely has been derived from my inability to peacefully meditate over the last two weeks on any true level, for every time until today that I have attempted, I find myself connecting to energies which are horribly mis-aligned, mind and soul tossed about by a terrifying storm that is a reality cracking at the seams. But if I am honest, this did nothing more than aggravate pre-existing conditions, and that my sense of control has been slowly but steadily slipping over the entire course of the last three months.

For indeed, that period of time has found me thrust at an alarming speeds into a world that I would never have quite imagined previously, despite having awakened to the power of Persona much longer ago than that, and the constant image I am faced with is that of falling down Alice's rabbithole -- only thus far it has proven to have no bottom, and I continue to accelerate with each new day, falling at an increasingly alarming rate with nothing to grasp onto to stop or even slow this freefall. And certainly it is more than my world suddenly expanding to incredible levels with almost terrifying speed, but other changes within my personal life at similarly-terrifying speeds as well.

And yet, nature itself dictates that there must be a bottom to this hole eventually, and if I do not find a way to slow myself, then the only possible end to this journey is to be shattered against an unyielding and uncaring earth at that bottom. This is unacceptable to me. I must and will find a way to slow myself.

Of course, I have no doubt that another piece to this sensation is the constant mental and emotional strain I find myself under in perpetuating a constant lie. I am...truly I am not accustomed to such things, and yet at the same time, I cannot deny that I am truly terrified at the thought of losing those few true friends that I have connected with for the first time in many years --it is little secret what they think of KNOWS and those that work for Kandori in general. I cannot accept the risk of discovery, yet at the same time, I do not know how long I can maintain such levels of deception against those close to me without reaching a breaking point.

Masumi stops briefly here, sighing heavily as she leans briefly back in her chair, before once more pressing onwards.

This is compounded further by my own, continued doubts about the organization in general and Kandori in particular. There are some that would say that it is darkness that gives balance to light, and certainly, there would seem to be some measure of truth to this -- I am reminded of Ichiya's Resonance, and the scorching sensation of light unmitigated, that brought only death and not life, destruction and not creation. Even on a hot day, the weary traveller may find relief in the shadows cast by a tree or building, or in the cool of darkness that comes when night falls.

And yet what becomes of those which are casting such darkness? Or in fact is this a proper line of thought at all? For a shadow is the meeting of light and darkness rather than complete darkness, and even the night is lit by the moon and stars. As with so many other things, 'balance' may be the purest of answers, and this approach may truly bring this balance -- and yet still it may not. The more I consider this, the more questions I find myself with.

However, stripping away all of the intellectual and philosophical arguments for a moment, my spirit continues to whisper that there is something very wrong with the organization in general and Kandori in particular. And yet, could this not merely be my subconscious mind reacting to social pressures on a level beyond my conscious understanding? Humans are fundamentally social creatures by nature, and now that I have finally found those that I can truly consider friends, it may be nothing more than raw instinct trying to preserve those social bonds, and thereby directing me away from the source of a potential breaking of those bonds.

But once again, looking from an alternate perspective reveals that this may not be such a bad thing. If humans draw strength from the bonds they form with others, and it seems evident that they do, then in my particular set of circumstances, it may be the best choice to remove myself from the organization for this reason -- irrespective of whether or not they are 'right' or 'wrong' from a strictly objective standpoint. Alternately *again,* by reacting to such pressures without a conscious effort to create a balance between the two, I may be robbing myself of valuable experiences.

Another frustrated sigh escapes Masumi's delicate lips as she considers this, trying to work through it.

Once more I find myself unable to truly commit to any one particular course by virtue of being able to simultaneously entertain so many perspectives at once. And even with that admission there are so many questions I cannot answer for that very reason -- or perhaps I am not so unable, and ultimately I am left with the knowledge that such is at once a great blessing and a terrible curse. Where is the line drawn between 'empathy,' between being able to see fully see others' viewpoints and perspectives...and between having no true sense of self, of merely being a collection of the assimilated viewpoints of other people...?

Masumi stops altogether at this juncture, closing her eyes as she cycles several long, steadying breaths. She cannot pursue that line of thought any further, at least not now. She moves mostly past it once she begins typing again.

But yes, moving on, there is no question that I am in dire need of reasserting control over myself and my environment. For not the first time, I find myself with an excessive number of projects which I wish to pursue, so many lines of thought to consider, and my mind stretches out to encompass each and every one of them simultaneously. And yet though I am capable of anything, I am surely not capable of everything, and because I /can/ see so much, I find myself once again lacking that ability to *narrow* my vision, the ability to truly prioritize that others possess. Ultimately, by trying to accomplish so much, I accomplish nothing at all.

It is deeply frustrating, and only reaffirms that need to step back from everything, to allow my mind to cycle, to refuse to take in any more external stimulus so that I may process the massive amount of information I have already assimilated and file it all away in its proper place. Mikage-Cho, the Dark Hour, Kotodama, the DVA Machine, KNOWS, SEES, Alternate Personas, Sayaka's Doppleganger, the fracturing and subsequent healing of time, and finally more recently...what appears to be my /own/ Doppleganger. So much information in such an intensely small space of time; I am allowing myself to become overwhelmed.

It may be necessary to retreat altogether from the external world for a space of time...

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