First Laughter

First Laughter

Author’s Note: This is a sequel to Mistletoe, seeking to further explore the relationship between Akira and Akechi as they go into the New Year.  Happy New Year!

If you have not read Mistletoe before reading this, it goes into how Akira found Goro.  This story is post-game and thus Akechi spoiler land by default.

 

 

“White,” the young man muttered, peering out of the small apartment window.  A sudden influx of tourists, not too surprising really, had forced him to delay a trip to Tokyo and stay in Sapparo for the New Year.  Looking at the unfamiliar world of freshly fallen snow it felt appropriate.  He had died in Tokyo.

Not the place to usher in a new year.

It was here, in this world of white, where he’d been found.

Arms wrapped around his waist, pulling him back into bed.

“Ughkira,” he grunted.

A disgruntled mreow, and a cat leapt past him to settle on the desk.  “What are you doing?”

“Snuggling,” came the muffled reply.

“And I had just gotten comfy,” the cat grumbled.  He licked a paw to wash his face.

“I’m not going anywhere,” promised the young man.  He stroked Akira’s hair, reaching around awkwardly to get at it.

The arms reached higher, embracing him in a tight hug.

The young man, Goro, patted Akira’s hands.  “It’s a new year.”

Grumble.

“We should spend the day together.”

Grumble again.

“It’s been a long time since I spent New Year’s with someone.”

The hug grew tighter.

“Do you know how to get to Hokkaido Shrine?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Why don’t we make a visit?  It’s still early enough.  We can visit the shrine and get to the cafe with plenty of time.”

The same influx of tourists which had filled up the trains had convinced the cafe owner where Akira, and now Goro, worked to open on New Years.  After all, what could be better on a snowy day than a fresh cup of coffee or tea?

Akira moved his chin up to rest on Goro’s shoulder.  “You want to?”

“With you,” Goro clarified.

The cat, Morgana, began coughing.

Both young men looked at him.

“Sorry, though I’d hack a furrball.”

“Maybe we should get you some medication for that,” Akira offered.

Catching on, Goro added, “You do seem to cough a lot.  Perhaps a trip to the vet is even in order.”

“It’s recent too,” continued Akira. “I think he’s really gotten sick.”

“Hey, hey, hey!  I am not sick, and I certainly don’t need a vet.”  Morgana looked away.  “Just a bit much sugar,” he muttered.

Akira rubbed his cheek against Goro’s.  “Just enough,” he corrected.

Morgana hopped onto the window.  He and Akira had lived in this apartment long enough that they’d figured out a way for the cat to open the window from the inside.  Knowledge he now fully intended to use.

“Going out?” inquired Goro.  Morgana had barely given the two a moment alone in the slightly over a week he’d been there.

“I’ll meet you two at the cafe.”  The black and white cat opened up the window.

“Your scarf,” Akira reminded him.

“No need,” huffed the cat, hopping outside.

Goro freed himself to close the window.  “He’s going to follow me.”

“Probably,” Akira admitted.  He rolled out of bed.  “Guess we should bring his scarf for when he gets cold.”  He moved over to his small dresser.  Hanging on the side were three scarves.  One small yellow scarf with red hearts, and a full sized red scarf with yellow hearts hung together.  Haru had made them for him and Morgana when he’d told her they were moving to Hokkaido for college.

A red and black scarf, thicker than the homemade pair,  hung on a separate hook.  Akira had gotten it shortly after rescuing Goro from the cognitive world.

On a similar note, two coats vied for space on the tiny rack by the door.

Akira had succeeded in explaing to his landlord that he simply had a guest for the holidays, but the apartment was definitely meant for one.  He’d already managed to talk his landlord into letting him keep Morgana without charging more than a base deposit and didn’t exactly have a ton more goodwill to work off of either.

Life would have been a lot harder if he weren’t so darned debonair.

Akira looked at the small mirror on his dresser, a grain playing across his face.

“Reveling in narcissism again?”

“Is it narcissism if you’re really that good?”

Goro leaned over his shoulder.  “You needn’t remind yourself of your excellence.  I’m quite capable of completing that mission myself.”  His lips curled into a thin smile.

Akira still hadn’t gotten used to the sight of smiles reaching Goro’s eyes.  They seemed so much brighter than he remembered them.  He’d seen signs of it while living in Tokyo, a glint in the back of his eyes, or a warm pride, but never had Goro Akechi truly opened up to him before now.

Never before had a mischievous side caused them to sparkle.  And they had certainly never appeared quite so warm.

They had both seen each other’s dark sides now.  Nothing more to hide.

“Suddenly I don’t feel so hasty,” Goro admitted.

“Do I have to play villain who pulls us outside now?”

Goro backed off.  “Hardly.  You’re just blocking the dresser.”

Akira flung open the small wardrobe beside the dresser.  “All your clothes are hung in there, remember?”

“And yet I still find myself requiring access to the dresser.”

Shaking his head, Akira opened up the dresser.  A quick moment of digging and he threw a pair of underwear and socks to his roommate.

“Thank you.”

Akira spun around.  “Guess we have to get dressed now.”

“Indeed.”

Their first time together without Morgana, and neither knew quite how to proceed.  Should they just leave?  Or, perhaps, there was something else?

Goro grabbed his pants, long-sleeved shirt, and sweater vest out of the closet.

Guess that answered that.  Akira turned around to grab some of his winter clothes too.

 


 

Hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the year, could get crazy, and seeing as they hadn’t arrived all that early, the shrine grounds looked more like a sea of people than a place for worship and introspection.  Akira and Goro melded in with the mob generally moving up to the shrine.

Akira rubbed his gloved hands together to keep them warm.  Without Morgana on his shoulders he felt abnormally cold.

“Anything I can do to help?” Goro offered, holding out a hand.

Akira graciously took it.  Goro had gloves on as well, but neither of their gloves were particularly thick and some heat still made it through.

He shoved his other hand into his coat pocket.  “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Goro replied, glancing around at the people around them.

In such a mob very few people even noticed the two guys holding hands.  A few did a double-take, but no one looked too askance.  New Year’s wasn’t an uncommon time for romance and hand holding, so at least the general attitude towards signs of affection didn’t cause too many issues.

“Don’t worry what they think,” Akira whispered into Goro’s ear.

“A hard habit to break, I’m afraid.”

Akira scooted even closer.  “You’ll get it,” he promised.

“A New Year’s Resolution, perhaps?”

“Could be.”

“And yours?”

“Hmmm.”  Akira squeezed Goro’s hand tightly.  “I think I’ll just wish for a good year…”

Goro turned away.  “Seems simple enough for you.”  He spoke sharply, a reminder of the jealousy and anger he had displayed when battling the Phantom Thieves.

“…together,” Akira finished.  “I’m selfish, remember?”

“Very,” Goro replied dryly. He did manage to look back at Akira though, so it was good enough.

They slowly oozed forward with the mob, until their turn to take the steps to the shrine came.  Akira slid a five hundred yen coin into Goro’s hand.

“Let’s make our wishes come true.”

They ascended the steps together.  Stood beside the offering box together.  Tossed in their coins together.  Bowed together.

Clapped twice, and held their hands there, thinking of their wish.

Akira hadn’t been joking when he said he wanted a good year together.  All of his friends, all of the phantom thieves, together again.  Even more though, he didn’t want Goro Akechi taken from him.  He knew it would be a fight, and so to Okuninushi specifically he prayed for the strength to fight on.  To prove to his friends that Goro deserved a second chance, and to see it through.

He bowed down, glancing at Goro as he did.  The other man still stood praying.

Akira stood, slowly walking away from the shrine.  He had barely turned when an arm wrapped around his own.

“And where do you think you’re going?” Goro reprimanded.

Akira leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.

He sighed.  “We should get to work.”

“Not before I get you a New Year’s charm.”  Akira began dragging Goro along.

“Akira, it isn’t necessary.”  Goro tugged back.  “You’ve done more to aid me than any charm ever could.”

Akira turned to him, surprised.  He generally just went along with what Akira wanted.  He’d been expecting Goro to push back at some point, but over getting a good luck charm?

“I am enough of a financial burden without the gifts.”

“You’re not a burden.”

People pushed past and around them on the crowded shrine grounds.

“And you’re the first person to ever believe that.”

“Then you should be the second,” Akira countered.  He clenched Goro’s hand tightly.  “You should have been the first.  You,” he stepped closer, making it easier for people to get around them, “you are not a burden.”

“Then tell me, phantom thief, what am I?”

Leaning in, Akira replied, “A Phantom Thief of Hearts and…”  His breath warmed Goro’s lips, a devilish smile crossing his own.

“Your lover,” Goro finished.  The word felt weird on his lips.  Foreign.  A concept he had so little grasp of that even saying it felt strange.

“Your lover,” Akira whispered back.  He offered Goro a quick kiss.

“Mine, huh?”

“Yours.”  The devilish smile had broadened now, and an internal fire granted warmth to his gaze.

“Well then, I suppose if I am yours as well, then things may work out.”

“I really mean this.”

“Impressive for a man with so much dating experience,” Goro retorted.  He shook his head in exasperation, “but I believe you.”  He spoke gently again.  “I don’t know why, but I almost always believe you.”

“Guess I have an honest face.”

Raising an eyebrow, Goro replied, “Truly?  I find it rather reminiscent of a kitsune’s.”

“I am fond of foxes,” Akira admitted, “but I find I prefer crows these days.”

Goro’s face reddened slightly, his body making an escape attempt through his cheeks.

The devil grin returned.  “Come on, let’s get to the cafe.”

 


 

Being one of the few nice cafes open on New Years definitely presented a financial advantage.  Master had been thrilled when Akira had brought Goro up to him, asking about work.  If they were going to make being open on New Year’s day worth it, they needed the extra help.

And Goro rocked the uniform.  Seriously, distractingly, rocked the uniform.

Akira had known it was coming.  Master took Goro’s measurements almost immediately upon meeting him, but Akira hadn’t expected it to be so damn perfect.

The last patron they had in the afternoon rush left.

Goro leaned slightly against the counter.

He’d been all smiles and complements the whole shift.  The Detective Prince once again.  Seeing Goro frown when he caught sight on an unreported spill actually made Akira feel a bit better.

“I’ll get it,” he offered.

“Thank you.”

Akira nodded, waving the towel he’d already been using to wipe down tables as he did.  He was already equipped for this sort of job after all.

“Well done,” Master congratulated.  He handed Goro a fresh cup of coffee.  “You do seem to have a knack for this sort of thing.”

“Thank you.”

“I told you he’d be perfect,” Akira called over.  The table already looked pretty decent.  He stepped back, examining it.  Spotless.

“Still, sorry to hear you had to cancel your trip to Tokyo.”

“It’s fine,” Akira assured his boss.  “Just decided on it a bit too late.  I’ll have to go visit next break.”

“Maybe you should invite them up.”

“No place for them to stay,” Akira replied with a smile.  He moved to the counter.  They had a small bin for rags behind the counter where he tossed his own rag.  Laundry after this wouldn’t be fun, but at least they didn’t have to worry about it quite yet.

Akira leaned back near Goro.  He too received a cup of coffee.

“Hey, Morgana,” the man suddenly called out.  Akira and Goro both jumped.  “I made you an extra creamy latte.”  He lightly tapped a saucer on the counter.

“Seriously!”

Akira and Goro exchanged glances.  Neither of them had seen Morgana earlier, so he must have slipped in before they got there.

The disgruntled, and clearly recently awoken, Morgana hopped of a beam near the back entrance.

“You weren’t supposed to tell them I was here,” he attempted to berate the manager.

“There you are.”  Master tapped the dish.  “Lots of cream with just a bit of coffee.  You want it.”

“You sure are responsive to good coffee,” Akira teased.

“I’m sure you two had a good time,” grouse Morgana.

Goro sipped his coffee, but neither cat nor boyfriend missed the smile on his lips.

Morgana put a paw against the edge of his dish.  He then slowly drug it further away from Goro, sliding it over until he was on the other side of Akira.

“You have a strange cat,” Master remarked.  “Came in on his own just before you got here.”

“Really?  Well, glad he made it here.  He’s pretty stubborn.”

“Very,” Goro added dryly.  He didn’t even bother to look at Morgana.

“Perhaps he doesn’t like someone new in his space,” Master mused.  “Cats can get rather territorial after all.”

“I’m not a cat!”

“He’s always so loud.”  Master smiled.  “Like he wants in on the conversation.”

“I do.”  Morgana splashed at the creamy coffee.

“Hey now, no messing up the counter or you get fed on the floor.”

Morgana stopped.  Akira chuckled.

Master held up his own mug.  “To a new year.”

“A new chapter,” Akira added, lifting his cup.

“A new life,” Goro replied quietly.  He raised his mug as well, but stared straight at Akira while speaking.

“Lady Anne,” Morgana called up with a sharp meow.

“Newly available, I hear,” Akira added.

Morgana splashed cream on his uniform.

Master broke down laughing.  “I don’t know how you do it, but if I didn’t know better I’d think you and that cat were best friends.”

“Friends furever.”

Goro and Master just blinked at him for a moment.

Morgana recovered first, muttering something about knowing where he slept.

“Heh.  Ha….Ha,” a strange grunt following from Goro’s mouth.  He put down the coffee.

Now all eyes turned to him.

The laughter grew steadier.  Goro leaned over the counter slightly.

“It wasn’t that funny,” Master remarked.

“I…I know, but…”  His voice shook from laughter and, maybe, something else.

“Goro?”  Akira leaned down.

“Sorry, sorry.”  Goro stood up straight.  He wore a big grin, but large tears clung to the bottom of his eyes.  “I guess all of it just hit at once.”

Akira lunged forward, wrapping him in a big hug.

“I didn’t think,” Goro wrapped his arms around Akira.  He took a steadying breath.  “I really didn’t believe I’d see a new year.  Ever.  I didn’t think I’d live.  I didn’t really plan to.  And it’s not that you were funny, it’s that you and Morgana just play off each other so naturally.  You’re a pair.”

“We’re a pair too.”

Morgana walked over. “Look, you’re not my favorite person.  I don’t trust you, but you’re one of us now.  And if Joker trusts you, well then, I guess I can give you another chance.”

“Heh.  That almost sounded nice.”

“I am a gentleman,” Morgana reminded them.

Akira chuckled, pressing his forehead against Goro’s.  “You heard the cat.”

“Not a cat!”

“I may not know quite what’s going on,” Master suddenly cut in, “but,” he raised his glass yet higher, “this is looking an awful lot like the part where you kiss.”

A disgruntled meow begged them against it.

The two fools, already so close, leaned in together.  It wasn’t their first kiss.  Goro had kissed Akira when he had first entered the cafe a week ago.

It was, however, long and warm, and even when it ended they held each other tight.

“Don’t make me lose you again,” Akira whispered.

“I think by now it’s quite clear you’d simply find me yet again.”

Akira leaned into the warm hug.  After so many quiet New Year’s, so many years the same, or alone, it felt good to lean against someone.

“Happy New Year, Akira.  I don’t know what it’s worth.  Used to think nothing, but…for what it is worth: I love you.”

Akira clung to him even more tightly, digging his hands into Goro’s back.  “You’re my treasure.  Worth everything.”

“Happy New Year!” cheered Master.  He took a big gulp of coffee.

Morgana let out a gagging sound, but put a paw again Akira, and another on Goro’s arm.  “Happy changing year, you two.”

“You too, Morgana.”  Akira nodded to his employer, “Master.”

“Perhaps it really will be happy,” Goro mused.

Akira kissed him again.

 

End Note: A common term for a significant other in Japanese is “koibito”.  It’s a gender neutral term, but used very much like how we like to say girlfriend/boyfriend.  That’s the world they’re using when they talk about being lovers.  I wanted to stick to the gender neutral aspect to help convey the idea, especially for Goro, that what’s surprising isn’t that he’s dating a guy.  It’s that he loves anyone and, even more strongly, that someone else loves him.  Whether it be a guy or a girl isn’t the point.  It’s the simple act of loving and being loved.

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Miku Monday: Percussive

Miku Monday: Percussive

Apparently, October is International Drum Month, so I thought I’d do a post focusing on percussion.  Generally, not hard to find in Vocaloid.

Image by Ekkoberry

Monster by YusukeKira

First off is a pretty new upload from YusukeKira.  It’s always nice to be able to include something new, because there always are new things.

Here’s the Bandcamp link if you want to purchase it.

Tantas Cosas by Aku P

It doesn’t really surprise me that while looking for different beats I ran into a Mexican producer.  I don’t have enough Spanish under my belt to understand the song, but I like it well enough and it’s nice to get something a little different in the mix.

You can get the MP3 on Bandcamp.

 

[86] by Dasu

Well, this was an awesome surprise.  It sounds great and the lyrics really hold out.  If you don’t see the English lyrics make sure you’ve got captions on.

Here’s the Bandcamp Link.

 

Oblivious Pumpkin by Pinocchio-P

Seemed reasonable to throw an actual Halloween song in here, and I always love Pinocchio-P’s beats.

You can find it on iTunes, the song is labeled Tarinai Kabocha.

 

TV by Creep-P (Eyeris)

I’m a little sad at how thoroughly accurate this feels right now, just about media in general, and I’m not as jaded as many of my friends.  Television, and news in general, has an amazing tendency of making every issue, every person, two dimension.  Right or wrong.  There’s no reason.  There’s only drama.

Also, I really like Ruby.  Here’s the Bandcamp Link.

 

Miku Monday 2017 Playlist

And here’s the playlist for the year.

Miku Monday: Piano Songs

Miku Monday: Piano Songs

Turns out September if National Piano Month.  Not one to let a good musical excuse go by, I decided to try and focus on piano heavy songs.  They’re not necessarily piano solos, but I think I managed to get a nice mix this time.  No vocaloid is used twice.

Cover image MMD Maika by YoiStyle.

Deja Vu by Circus-P

I might be slightly, a tad, just a little bit obsessed with this song.  Of course, I’m pretty much obsessed with Circus-P and highly suggest the album this is on 715.  You can get it on Bandcamp.  It’s a pretty awesome album.

Human Version by JubyPhonic and Rachie

Starlight Keeper by Momocashew

Thought it was time to throw some Oliver into the mix.  I know this one is old, but I like the lyrics and the piano part, so it fit the theme.

I found some really good ones while hunting around, so you can expect more of him.

Cover by JoyDreamer

So, I had no idea about this, even though I follow JoyDreamer.  Guess it’s easy to miss things when  you follow people who have been at it for a while.

Happy Days by Ghost

A song from this year!

I know I must have run into Ghost before, but I don’t remember any of the music.  Maybe it was a brief encounter.  Not now though.  I love these songs, and the PVs that go with them are really cool.  Expect more Ghost in the future.

There’s a download link in the video description, but if you want to support the artist here’s the Bandcamp link to purchase it.

Odette by Apakilypse

Piano and Strings Version

Sunflowers in Your Eyes by EmpathP

I guess the same person wrote the lyrics for this as Odette, huh.  Oh well, this is one of my absolute favorites.  It’s probably shown up before, I admit, but when thinking of piano vocaloid songs this was first to mind.

If you want a whole bunch of piano vocaloid songs, then Salutations and Sayonara is the album for you.  A lot of it is pretty sad, but it actually really helped me go through some hard times.

Miku Monday 2017 Playlist

Miku Monday: Back to School

Miku Monday: Back to School

I know it’s a bit late for most schools, but I was still on my summer term with a lot of schools started their autumn term.  Long and short, my second full year of grad school begins this week.  As such, I thought I’d go through some school themed music.

Featured image from Pixiv.

Rolling Girl by Wowaka

It’s worth noting that each of these three videos has a different person doing the lyrics, and they’re all notably different, especially the English Covers.

JoyDreamer, who did the lyrics for this video, has an acoustic cover, but despite how amazing her voice is, I just generally don’t go for acoustic covers.

You can find Rolling Girl and several other popular Wowaka songs on iTunes with the album Unhappy Refrain.  Amazon also appears to have used physical albums for a reasonable price.

 

English Cover by JubyPhonic

English Cover by Zoozbuh

Lost One’s Weeping by Neru

Remixed Len Version by kyaami

There are a lot of English covers of this song, but while not bad none of them really struck me, so I thought a remixed version with Len leading could be fun.

Monochrome∞Blue Sky by Noboru↑-P

Interesting note: while on the hunt for a cover I liked I found a lot of spanish covers.  Like, a ton.  And one Thai cover, which was pretty decent.  A lot of people’s voices seemed to break getting some of the notes right.

While it’s not the original, you can find this song on iTunes as part of “Exit Tunes Presents Kamikyoku wo Utattemita 4”

After-School Stride by Last Note.

This is the beginning of a school series (Mikagura School Suite) by Last Note.  It was recently adapted into an anime, which can be found on Crunchyroll here.

You can buy the song on Amazon either individually or as part of the album first trip.

English Cover by Jubyphonic

Friday’s “Good Morning” by HoneyWorks

You’d think I do a better job remembering that I really like HoneyWorks.  I don’t think I’ve found a song of theirs I don’t like yet, and this is really adorable.

English Cover by JefferzKM

Hey, a different cover artist!  Yay.  Always good to find some new sources for videos and songs.

 

Miku Monday 2017 Playlist

Here’s the playlist of all the songs I’ve used this year.  Feel free to comment some artist/song suggestions for me.

Songs of Love and Hope

Songs of Love and Hope

My Grandmother died a week ago today while away on vacation.  I wanted to collect some songs to help express how I feel or that cheer me up as I sort through it.

Featured image from Pixiv.

Aikotoba II by Deco*27

Fell in love with the first song playing Future Tone.  Fell in love with this one listening to Rachie’s cover.  Obviously, I knew my Grandmother for more than five years, but the thanks and hope expressed in this song has really been helping me sort through this.  This is the song which inspired this list because I can’t say “thank you” enough.

English Cover by Rachie

 

Hope by Yuyoyuppe

English Cover by Zoozbuh

Piano English Cover by Joydreamer

I’d listened to this song a fair amount before hearing this cover, but this is when I really fell in love with it.  At the same time, it’s surprisingly hard to find the rock versions of sadder songs.  I won’t even pretend this cover isn’t make me cry right now.

Satisfaction by kz(livetune)

No matter how sad you feel, you can’t always be miserable.  I use this song to force a smile.

English Cover by zoozbuh

I like English covers since I never have any time to pay attention to lyrics will playing the games, and would rather dance to it than watch a video I’ve seen five thousand times.

Y to Y by JimmyThumb-P

I remember running into this while playing Future Tone and thinking “this is really sad” and “this clearly goes with one of the other songs I ran into”.  Yes, and yes.

English Cover by Jayn

Glory 3usic9 by Nanou

Bonus! Nandemonaiya (English Version) by Radwimps

I try to keep it to vocaloid and Utau, I really do, but… This song and Sparkle have both really helped.  For all Your Name. made me cry, it’s also rather hopeful.

For the record, you can find this album on Amazon, Spotify, and if you get the Collector’s Edition of Your Name. from Funimation.

Crying even when I’m happy

Smiling even when I’m feeling lonely

It’s because the heart of mine

Has made it here before my body

Miku Monday 2017 Playlist

Here’s the playlist for everything in Miku Monday this year.  I’ll try to get back to doing things more regularly, but it’s surprisingly difficult.  I’d like to branch out into more lesser known songs and well, they’re lesser known, so they can take time to hunt down.

I promise, I don’t usually push Miku this much.

Mistletoe Epilogue: Lingering Love

Mistletoe Epilogue: Lingering Love

Author’s Note: Beware SPOILERS.  I do not suggest reading if you have not finished the game.  I suggest leaving immediately if you have not yet finished the Justice Confidant.  You have been warned.  Otherwise, I hope you enjoy.  I threatened waiting until Christmas, but it ended up less Christmasy than I thought it would, so I’m posting it now.

Mandatory Disclaimer: The story is based on the world and characters of the Atlus video game Persona 5.  I do not own Akira, Morgana, Akechi, ect.,.  I do, however, own this story itself, and any original characters who appear.  Additionally, assume images used are official.  Any which aren’t will credit the artist.

Example: featured image is from Pixiv.

Now, read, enjoy, and maybe even review.  I hope you enjoy.

 


 

Akira opened his eyes slowly, scared to find out it was all just a dream.  Morgana snuggled up against his face.  

No.  

He sat up, desperately looking around the room.  “Goro?”

Morgana stirred beside him.  

Akira stood up.  “Goro?”

The sound of running water.  He rushed for the bathroom.  

There stood Goro, in the same uniform he’d worn two years ago, rinsing his face.  

Akira wrapped him in a big hug.  

“Oof.”  Goro slammed into the sink under the force of the hug.  

Akira buried his face in the other man’s hair.  “You’re okay.”

“Heh.”  Goro placed a hand on Akira’s shoulder.  “I’ll never understand you.”

“That makes two of us,” Morgana added from just outside the small bathroom.

Akira just held him tighter.  “I don’t ever want to let you go.”

“Worried I’ll go off the deep end again?”

“Worried you won’t come back,” Akira corrected.  

“I’ve done terrible things, you know.”

“You were drowning.”  Akira rested his head on Goro’s opposite shoulder.  “I won’t let you drown again.”

Goro shook his head.  “You’re lying.”

Akira slowly spun him around so they could face each other.  “No.”  He smiled.  “Something about you has always made me speak my mind.”  He paused.  

“You make me a better person.  Let me do the same for you.”

“You already did.  When I was with the Phantom Thieves, I actually felt like a hero.  I felt like who I had always wanted to be.”

“Then be that again.”

Goro looked away.  “It was never the real me.”

“There’s more than one real you.”  Akira lifted Goro’s head to face him.  “That mask is a part of you.  A very real part of you.  Robin Hood is no less you than Loki.  You don’t have to be selfish.”

“You don’t have to be altruistic.”

Akira shook his head.  “I’m not.  Right now,” he put both hands around Goro’s face, “I am being very selfish.”

He leaned in, bring Goro’s face down slightly, for a kiss.  Just a simple peck, he’d never actually kissed another guy, but it had the desired effect.  

Goro stared at him.  

“Why don’t I go look up train tickets before I cough up a hairball?” Morgana offered right before quickly scampering away.  

“My Shadow was right,” Akira admitted.  “I am a very greedy person.”

Goro stared a moment.  Then a smile cracked across his face.  Then, he laughed.  

“I always knew you were crazy.”

“How so?”

“I really did mean to kill you, both times.”

Akira shrugged.  “Guess I hold onto people more than grudges.”

“I shot you in the head.”

“No, you shot a cognition of me in the head.”

“Which I thought was you,” Goro reminded him.

“Minor detail.”

“Major detail.”

“You also sacrificed yourself so we could get away.”

“It was you or both of us.”

“We could have taken it on together.”

“Doubtful.”

“How’s a noon train on Wednesday sound?” Morgana called from by the computer.  

“Sounds good,” Akira shouted back.  

“You and me, right?”

“Morgana.”

The not cat let out a deep sigh. “Fine, two humans and a cat.”

“You’re taking me with you to Tokyo.”

“You shouldn’t have to hide.”

“I shouldn’t be alive.”

“So?”

Goro sighed.  “So, I could use some clean clothes.”

Now that he thought about it… Akira took a good look at Goro’s clothes.  They were torn and stained.  

“You got it.”

 


 

The café had calmed down with the end of finals, and the clientele had shifted.  Their decorations seemed to bring in couples at an alarming rate.  Akira made sure to give them all a warm smile.  

“Must be looking forward to seeing your friends in Tokyo,” Master grumbled.

“Sorry I took the time off so suddenly.”

“Well, at least you seem better.  I’ll be mad if you quit on me though.”

Akira smiled at him.  He’d already discussed the possibility that he might move back to Tokyo to his manager and, for all his grumbling, the old man seemed understanding enough.  

“Get this coffee to the reading lounge.”

With a nod, Akira brought the small cup to a woman cuddling beside on a man on the couch.  

“Here you are.”  He placed it gently on the coffee table in front of them.  “I hope you enjoy.”

“Thank you.”

He smiled warmly at them before moving back towards the bar.

The ringing bell from someone opening the door turned him right back around.

“Wel—“

There stood Goro Akechi in a slightly short winter coat.  He had unbuttoned it before walking in to reveal a red, black, and white sweater vest underneath.   The wind had wreaked havoc on his hair, and it seemed to have no idea which direction to go anymore.  

“He insisted on coming,” Morgana explained as he trotted into the café.  

The door closed behind them, but Goro didn’t move.  He just looked around nervously, like someone lost.  

“Welcome,” Akira greeted, moving closer.  “Can I help you?”

“Ah, yes, I…I just followed the cat here.  Thought it looked nice and warm.”

“We have some of the best coffee in Sapparo,” Akira assured him.  They stood just a couple of feet apart now.  “Alternatively, we serve some very nice tea.”

Goro smiled, moving his head down.  “You’re too natural at this, and in a butler outfit no less.”

“You think so?”

Goro looked back up.  “Definitely.”  His eyes darted upward then.  

“Is something wrong?”

“No, just wondering if you’d be willing to come closer.”

Akira took a couple of steps forward.  They were now within arm’s reach.

Goro pointed up to the mistletoe Akira had hung just a few days before.  “Pretty sure this means something.”

Akira blinked in surprise.  Goro hadn’t said a word about the kiss in the bathroom, leaving Akira to assume he had no interest.  Not surprisingly, really.  But, then why was he indicating the mistletoe.

Goro chuckled.  Then, he reached out and grabbed Akira by the collar of his shirt.  He pulled him in close.  Akira hopped closer in an attempt to stay standing.

Goro kissed him.  Akira’s eyes widened.  This wasn’t a cautious peck, but rather a heartfelt kiss.

They pulled back, Akira stuttering out a vague attempt to ask, “Why?”

“Well,” Goro innocently replied, “mistletoe is how Loki gets himself into trouble.  And you are definitely trouble.”

He leaned in again.  Akira offered no objections.  

Mistletoe 04: Lingering Hatred

Mistletoe 04: Lingering Hatred

Author’s Note: Beware SPOILERS.  I do not suggest reading if you have not finished the game.  I suggest leaving immediately if you have not yet finished the Justice Confidant.  You have been warned.  Otherwise, I hope you enjoy.  I threatened waiting until Christmas, but it ended up less Christmasy than I thought it would, so I’m posting it now.

Mandatory Disclaimer: The story is based on the world and characters of the Atlus video game Persona 5.  I do not own Akira, Morgana, Akechi, ect.,.  I do, however, own this story itself, and any original characters who appear.  Additionally, assume images used are official.  Any which aren’t will credit the artist.

Example: featured image is from Pixiv.

Now, read, enjoy, and maybe even review.  I hope you enjoy.


 

Joker topped the familiar stairs to enter a familiar room.  Filled with gifts from his friends, star shaped lights dimly illuminated the small room.  In front of the TV, his Shadow busily tapped away at a controller.  It didn’t even look up.

Across the room stood the shoddy bed he had spent most of a year using.  Someone was tied to it, rope going under the mattress.

A red mask with the nose broken off rested on the windowsill.

The sounds of someone furiously tapping a controller stopped.  A final click, and the light stopped fluctuating.  

“Go ahead and put Morgana on the bed.”  Joker’s Shadow stood.  “I wouldn’t want him getting hurt.”

Joker slowly moved towards the bed.  One good look at the tied up Akechi and he nearly dropped Morgana.  

He’d figured that’s who was tied up on the bed, but he hadn’t expected so much damage.  Akechi’s messy hair stuck to a shallow wound on his forehead, and his bottom lip bled slightly from a bite mark.  That wasn’t the only bite mark either.  The buttons on his Phantom Thief uniform had been undone and he had bite marks and bruising on both shoulders.  There appeared to be bruising throughout his body.  

“He kept running,” the Shadow explained.  He sighed.  “I really wish he wouldn’t.  That he’d choose to stay, but his pride won’t allow it.”

Joker gingerly laid Morgana down beside the injured Akechi.  “How could  you do this to him?”

“I hate him.”

“Then let him go.”

“I can’t.”

Joker spun to face his Shadow.  They looked identical except for the yellow eyes.

“Why are you doing this?  Why are you keeping them around like this?  These cognitions, they’re miserable.”

The Shadow shrugged.  “They’re my game pieces.  I need them.”

“They’re my friends,” Joker corrected.  

“No, they’re replicas of our friends.  Most of our real friends are in Tokyo.  These cognitions exist because of my desire to see them again, my desire to have them by my side.”  He grinned.  “And my desire to continue the Phantom Thieves.”  He slammed his head against the wooden wall.  “I feel so useless like this.”

Joker looked away.  

“What do you want, Joker?  What do you really want?  Why are you living like this?  You don’t know why you study.  Why you do anything.  You don’t know what you want.  Your friends don’t need you to be happy or successful.  So, what good are you?  No one needs you and you don’t even know what you want.”  

The Shadow stepped forward.  “Tell me what I want.  What can happen to make me happy?” he pleaded.  

“I don’t know.”  Joker looked up to his Shadow once more.  “I just know I have to keep moving forward.”

“You’re not though.  You’re stuck in place.  We’re stuck in place.  I play all these games to keep my mind busy.  To hone my intelligence and my strategy, but there’s no reason for any of it.  I don’t even please myself.”

Unable to really think of a response, Joker just said, “Let Akechi and Morgana go.  Let everyone go.”

“And be alone?”

“Better than imprisoning others.”

“Maybe, but I want the real thing.  I want them back.”  The Shadow’s form morphed, black wings sprouting from his back.  His hands extended into monstrous talons, and his mouth a beak.  “And I know you won’t give it to me, so maybe you should just die.”  It hunched forward.  “Maybe I should just die.”

“There’s a better way.”

“You don’t get it at all.  You don’t understand what you’re really asking me to do.”

Joker pulled out his knives.  “I will free them.”

His Shadow beat its wings, generating a hurricane of wind.

Joker held his position, but couldn’t move forward.  Unfortunately, all he could do against such a gale was wait for it to end.

And it did.  Just moment before talons raked into his arms.  He fell to the ground, bleeding heavily.  His Shadow pressed down on him, tearing into him with its talons.

Arrows of light descended on the Shadow.  It howled in pain.  Joker took the opportunity to get up from under it.  

Glancing over to the bed, he saw Robin Hood dissipate.  A moment later and Akechi sat up.  Morgana moved down to his feet.  

“How dare you,” the Shadow hissed.  

“Kougan,” Akechi whispered in response.  Robin Hood appeared once more.  He looked dull compared to how he had been before, but Joker wasn’t about to complain as light once more rained down on the Shadow.  

Another rope came undone.  

The Shadow went for Morgana.  Joker dived after it, grabbing it around the waist.  They tumbled together at the base of the bed.  

His Shadow got him pinned, only to get a slingshot hitting its head.

Joker used that distraction to jab it with a knife.  It howled, but also slashed him with a talon.  

Morgana leapt at it with his scimitar.

The Shadow tossed him aside, but not without receiving a rather large gash across its arm.  

Joker slide out from under it, coming to his feet near the stairs.  Akechi moved away from the bed, towards the shelves stacked with gifts.  Morgana shifted closer to the TV.  No matter what it did next, the Shadow would expose its back to someone.

Indeed, it stopped to look at each of them in turn.  It ended on Akechi, glaring at him.  

“I hate you so much.  Everything you did, so unforgivable.”  Its talons clenched.  “I despise you, and I despise how little I despise you.  Worse yet,” it took a faltering step forward, “I despise how little you despise me.”

With a sudden spin it lunged for Joker.  

A darkness surrounded it, surging ahead of its own charge.  

Joker cross his dagger in an attempt to guard.  

The darkness dug into the wound caused by the talons just moments ago.  He grimaced as it widened the gashes.  

“Mercurius,” Morgana shouted.  A warm light shone over Joker, Morgana, and Akechi.  Joker’s wounds stopped bleeding, the darkness within them dissipating.  

Unfortunately, healing couldn’t stop the Shadow’s charge.  

A red sword slashed across its midsection, practically hurling the Shadow into Morgana.  Loki hovered in front of Joker, but something seemed different.  There was more flow to its form than Joker remembered.

The Shadow attempted to barrel into Loki, only to have Mercurius punch it.  It went tumbling down the stairs.  

Loki dissipated, but not before Joker realized that the black and white stripes around it seemed to be unraveling.  He passed Akechi a concerned look.

“I’ll be okay.”  He wore his black outfit now, but even it seemed to be falling apart.  “Let’s get him while he’s down.”

“Agreed,” Morgana replied, hopping down the stairs.  

Joker grabbed Akechi’s arm.  “Are you sure you’re alright?  We need to get out.”

“We have to get rid of the cognitions.”

With a nod, Joker let go of his arm, and proceeded to head down the stairs where he could already hear the whipping winds.  

Akechi was right behind him.  

Black blood covered the arcade machines.  Morgana had apparently managed to get a deep gash into one of the Shadow’s wings while it was down, and now it staggered around, slashing wildly at the quick moving Morgana.  

Akechi called out.  “Take him down, Loki.”

Loki’s red blade left a deep gash in the Shadow’s back.  It spun angrily.

“How dare you.  After I pitied you, how dare you.”

Akechi placed a hand on Joker’s shoulder, steadying himself.  

So he was hurting, even after Morgana’s healing.

“You didn’t pity me,” Akechi hissed.  He gripped tightly on Joker’s shoulder.  “You just couldn’t let me go.”

The black and white around Loki’s form continued unraveling.  They unfurled into a black and white cape, like snow falling at night.  A mask like encircling flames surrounding the Persona’s face, and its horns remained relatively unchanged.  

Runes ran along the blade.  

The Shadow charged the shifting Persona.  

“Oh no you don’t,” Morgana shouted.  Mercurius once more slammed into the Shadow.

Morgana looked up at Akechi.  “Go get him, Crow.”

“Allow me,” Akechi responded, stepping ahead of Joker.  His outfit shifted as well, some of the white  and red from his Robin Hood uniform sneaking in, as it too seemed to unfurl.  The cape grew into a long jacket similar to Joker’s, with runes in red and white around its edges.  A golden clasp of a two-headed snake held it together.  

The Shadow looked passed him, to Joker.  “Do you see it now?  Do you understand?”

Loki raised Laevatein high.  

Joker reached out to hold Akechi’s, Goro’s, hand.  

Laevatein pierced the Shadow, and it screamed, darkness spreading around the room.  

Morgana moved over to them in the darkness, standing just in front of Goro.  

The darkness cleared to expose his Shadow, dressed in the Shujin Academy uniform, sulking in the middle of the room.  

Joker looked to Goro.  “Come with me?”

He received a slight nod in response.

All three of them walked forward together, but Morgana let Joker and Goro take the lead.  Goro wore a mask again, once more a crow motif, but all black.  

“Now what?” Joker asked his Shadow.

“That’s up to you.”

Joker looked down at his and Goro’s hands.  “This is my treasure, isn’t it?”

The Shadow nodded.  “Your guilt, your anger, your hatred.  All of it, right there.”

“This is real.”

“Yes.”

Joker looked carefully at Goro.  “You’re real.”

“That’s my understanding.”

“He’s real,” the Shadow assured them.  They both looked to it.  “I found him injured and starving in my domain sometime after the disappearance of Mementos, sometime after I came into being.”

“You’ve been inside me a long time.”

The Shadow nodded.

Letting go of Goro’s hand, Joker kneeled down to look his Shadow in the face.  

“I need to return to Tokyo, to see my friends for who they are now.  To grow with them.”

“Does that mean we’re moving back?” Morgana asked from behind them.

Joker smiled slightly, but otherwise ignored him.  

“You, both of you, have limitless potential.  Being unable to tap into that…”

Goro spoke up.  “If we’ve been here for an extended period of time, why did he only just now start showing up?”

“I don’t know,” the Shadow admitted.  “I think I just kept growing stronger, until he couldn’t hide from me anymore.”

“I shouldn’t have hidden to begin with,” Joker admitted.  “I wanted new experiences, to try new things, and make new friends, but you’re right, I need my friends from the Phantom Thieves.  I can’t just leave that behind.  I don’t want to.”  He turned to Goro.  “Any of them.”

The Shadow smiled, rising up to take the form of Arsene.  “I am pleased to return.  Do not fall into complacency.  It is simply not your true self.”

Joker reached out, taking the mask offered to him.  

The area around them began to shake.

“Uh, so did we ever figure out how to get back out?” Morgana pressed, coming right up to  him.  

“I’d guess we just wake up.”  Joker grabbed Goro’s hand tightly.  Morgana hopped onto his back.  

Goro clenched his hand tightly.  “I’m ready to get out of here.”

“I’ll bet.”

“Arsene,” Joker whispered, “get us out of here.”

The persona surrounded them, lifting them high.  The Palace crumbled beneath them.

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