NaNoWriMo 2015: Fall to Rebirth Chapter 15

NaNoWriMo 2015: Fall to Rebirth Chapter 15

Moon Phase: Waning Half Moon

Crush Him

 

Naoki glanced up at the small church. It was apparently one of the oldest churches in Tokyo and so he had come here Sunday morning, hoping to scope it out during the service and discover if the angels were using it as a base.

A few stragglers were still entering the church. Naoki pulled up his hoodie, now with extra padding in the back so the horn didn’t poke through it, and came in behind them.

He’d never actually been in a Catholic church before. Plenty of time beating up Catholic, or at least Christian, angels, but never actually coming into a church.

He had to admit it was pretty at least. Light filtered through the glass, illuminating their gods and idols on the floor. A choir sang gently while people found their seats. Several were already kneeling in prayer.

Naoki stood in the back, trying to stay in the light so any residual glow the makeup couldn’t cover remained unnoticeable.

He continuously scanned the room, not even fully aware that he understood the latin the priest spoke in prayer. No strange people. No strange movement. No angels.

“Disappointed?” a voice whispered beside him during one of the songs.

Naoki turned sharply to his right. How had he not noticed this person? One blue eye and one red eye stared back at him, blonde hair pulled back to make sure they were fully exposed. The man leaned back a bit, a small smile dancing on his face.

“Who?”

“You know the answer, fiend who is not a fiend.”

Naoki felt his throat close. “The child and the old man,” he gasped.

The man bowed. Light reflected off his dark purple suit. “I am Lois Cypher. A pleasure to finally introduce myself properly.”

“Lois Cypher? As in…?”

Cypher grinned. “And you are Naoki Kashima, better known among some as Hitoshura, the human Asura, the demi-fiend.”

“You know your stuff.”

“Naturally. Now, what brings you here? Seeking religion?”

“My brother.” Should he tell Cypher everything? This was probably the one being who could help him, but it was also the being who had drove the magatama into his eye and changed his life so completely. He may not have cause the Conception, but he had certainly played around with Naoki during it quite happily. He also might actually know something.

“Your brother? Does he seek religion?”

“It seeks him.” Might as well. Besides, Cypher probably knew already. He seemed like the sort of being to have his hands in everything. Naoki leaned in closer. “About a week ago Metatron took my brother.”

“Metatron? Now that is interesting. He doesn’t usually stoop so low. Must still hold a grudge on you for taking him out.”

“Probably, but what does he want with my brother?”

Cypher motioned Naoki to follow him outside the main sanctuary. Wander off alone with this being wasn’t exactly on Naoki’s to do list, but he went ahead and walked out to hallway.

“That I don’t know, but I have sensed the presence of angels within Tokyo. Not a long angel here or there, but a congregation. Perhaps there you can find your answers.”

“A congregation? So they’re planning some big then?”

Cypher nodded. “Be nice to know what, but I try not to cause a stir.”

Yeah right. “Where are they?” Okay, so this was going to end up being another case of him being used to someone else’s gain. If it got his brother back he could accept the trade.

“St. Mary’s Cathedral in Bunkyo. It’s in the shape of the cross, and a center of Christian power in Japan, such as it is.”

“Does it get crowded?”

“Packed, but it has a noon service you could still make it to if you wish.”

Naoki nodded. The service would make a good chance to get a lay of the building and confirm the presence of angels. They were pretty unlikely to attack him in the middle of their own service.

A warm hand on his face. Naoki jumped just as Cypher pulled the hand away. Some makeup came with it.

“I see. That could prove difficult.”

“I don’t know how to hide it,” Naoki admitted.

“I never expected you to fully awaken again. Interesting. The horn as well?”

“Yeah. I had headaches before too, and I can feel the magatama squirming. I think there’s several in there.”

“Be careful. They don’t generally like each other and may even eat one another if kept together too long.”

“Not sure what to do about it. I think they’ll die if they’re left outside.”

Cypher nodded. “Come back after you have explored St. Mary’s Cathedral. We can discuss your findings them and I will see what I can do about the magatama. If the angels are being this pushy you may well need your full abilities.”

“Why help me?”

“You impressed me,” Cypher admitted. “And now you continue your war on the enemy with no hesitation. That seems deserving of something at least.” Another song began. “You should go before this mass ends.”

“When should I come back?”

“After you have done what you need to do. Even as early as tomorrow I should be ready for you.”

“But when?”

“I am nearly always here, and will undoubtedly become aware of your presence when you enter. Failing that, offer a prayer to me and I will come.”

“A prayer? To you?”

“Oh, don’t sound so sarcastic. Plenty pray to me without even knowing it.” Cypher bowed one more time. “Until we see each other again.”

Naoki half-heartedly returned the bow.

 


 

Okay, Naoki had to admit that St. Mary’s Cathedral looked impressive. It practically glowed from the sunlight and was, quite frankly, huge.

He wondered how many angels could fit in there.

He’d made it about ten minutes ahead and so decided to take a look around the grounds. They weren’t particularly impressive, but walking around the building made him aware of just how much space the giant cross took up. What an ostentatious display of steel and concrete.

His opinion of the building went up a bit when he entered the back of the main cathedral. All that ostentatiousness seemed to finally get somewhere. A cross shone down on the chapel, made of simple sunlight. It felt elegant yet simple to Naoki, a basic light trick to convey the supposed holiness of the structure. The people sitting and standing throughout the cathedral added to that sense more than any light tricks though. Some simply seemed to watch from the back, others bowed their heads in prayer, and some seemed completely awed by the lovely building.

Naoki closed his eyes. Cypher had been right. He could feel the angels here.

He opened his eyes again when the service began.

The angels were watching him. He pressed against the wall. He wasn’t here for a fight, not yet.

For a while the service went similarly to how it had in the first church. Then, the light grew bright and, to Naoki at least, harsher. The congregation gasped in awe, an armored and winged figure now floating above the altar. The priest fell to his knees.

A voice, Metatron’s, echoed through the chapel. “Devout ones, those who cry for the love of God. Those who seek only to better this world. Among you is a sinner, a true demon like none you have ever known.”

Was he really going there? Naoki stretched, drawing the attention of those closest him. It may not have been the right response, but he didn’t care. Sounded like he was about to get called out anyway.

Sure enough, the light moved to Naoki. All heads followed it. The angel, an archangel, pointed at him.

“There. See how it defies us. Now rise up to show your love and your faith. Destroy this monster.” Many of the people stood up, many others looked around nervously.

Naoki began hopping from foot to foot, finding his balance.

Angels appeared around the room. “Purify the land. Purify the air. Purify the soul.”

Naoki stepped forward, pulling back his hood. “Come and get me then, if you’re so tough, but leave others humans out of it.”

“You are no human.”

The room got very, very bright. Naoki could feel it washing away his soul, cleaning him like a razor. It hurt, but he managed to hang on. He’d been through worse. No matter what they did to him today, he’d been through worse.

The angels came at him.

Just breathe. Reach out. Feathers. Clench hands tight. Swing.

Naoki spun himself around, one angel in each hand. They screamed, ramming into their companions until the force made them limp. They dissipated before they hit the floor.

Naoki clapped his hands twice, kneeling slightly, like a man calling his dog. “Come on.”

Way too much time around Dante.

The archangel charged forward, sword leading. Naoki jumped to the side, grabbed the trailing arm, and pulled down. One punch to the face and the angel fell.

“Seriously, Metatron. This is all you’ve got?”

“Attack him, holy ones. Strike the monster down and be not afraid for you have God’s love and guidance.”

The westerners in the room charged first, but once they got going the Japanese and Koreans weren’t far behind.

How could he fight them without any fatal accidents? Escaping didn’t feel like an option, not without more information, but he didn’t actually want to kill anyone.

Would have been better if Metatron had just accepted his second beating.

Well, if back wasn’t an option might as well move forward. How often had he learned that the hard way?

Naoki set himself to running. He could outrun any human…probably.

Turned out the problem wasn’t outrunning them, but getting away in the first place. The cathedral seating three hundred, but held over a thousand and had, apparently, been pretty full. At this point everyone simply rushed him.

Mobs. Great.

Still, numbers could be dangerous, even numbers of the weak. He couldn’t push through without thinning.

“You’re despicable,” Naoki called out. Then he punched one of the men coming at him. He jabbed a woman in the stomach with his elbow. Swing and kick. Two more down.

Naoki had gotten into plenty of fist fights before. Chiaki had a knack for always saying the wrong thing and Isamu tended to take every insult personally. Naoki had always provided the punches to back up those sad personality traits.

He could feel blood on his fists. Bloody noses and knocked out teeth. He felt fairly apologetic, even if they were being idiots and did attack him first.

Then a little old lady swung her purse at him. It likely held a year’s worth of supplies and reading materials, and it hurt. A moment later a man knocked him over the head with a bible.

Seriously? Did they want to die?

No, don’t think that way. Don’t kill anyone. Don’t lose your cool. You’ve been through worse. He continued to push through the crowd.

They began to grab at him. Any one arm could be knocked off, any one hands pushed away. People pushed at him from all sides, worse than Shinjuku station. Worse than New Year’s at a Shrine. And these people meant to hurt him.

His makeup began to rub away under their grasping hands.

He had to find Metatron. No matter what they’d been told, or by who, this didn’t seem right.

Someone grabbed his hair, pulling his head back.

Up there, in the center of the cross of light, Metatron watched over everything.

He had to get higher then. He had to fly. Or just gain suitable height. How?

Naoki slammed his head forward, freeing his hair and head butting a man in front of him. He shoved his arms forward to the next person, a healthy looking man.

“Alleyoop,” he called, using his arms and the hands which grasped to get onto the man’s shoulders. Now the trick would be not getting tripped. “You ready, Metatron?”

Now to move fast. Naoki began to run over the crowd. They tried to grab him, but many were too confused to accomplish much, and the kids couldn’t even reach him.

“Stop him.”

“Sorry. Excuse me. Coming through. Sorry for the bruise.” Naoki would have been lying if he’d claimed he wasn’t having fun with this.

One final leap and he had jumped passed the altar and onto the stage. Since everyone had come down to grab him it remained clear. The angels began to move in.

Time to climb.

Naoki leapt up to one of the angels, grabbing its wing and use it as leverage to make it to the next one. If they insisted on surrounding him he could get up there.

The wind grew harsh and fast.

Yeah, go ahead with your wussy wind attacks. He could use them for more leverage.

Almost there. One final leap, just hoping to make it through.

A gust of wind forced him sideways and through the stained glass. He landed hard on concrete, rolling through the church parking lot until a car stopped his progress.

Shit.

Footsteps.

Naoki opened his eyes. He could just make out a pair of black boots and the tails of a red coat.

“So, you really did want to wind up in a dumpster. Should have just said something.”

Dante. Oh thank goodness it was Dante. Relief washed over him.

Naoki blacked out.

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NaNoWriMo 2015: Fall to Rebirth Chapter 14

NaNoWriMo 2015: Fall to Rebirth Chapter 14

04/08/2015

If/Then

“Horrible liar.”

Souji knew that, really. He didn’t need a butterfly talking in his head to tell him that. If his record hadn’t been spotless things would have gone much more poorly, but as things stood the police accepted his story of being too scared to remember anything about the attack on the train platform. Good thing no one had asked him to elaborate.

“At least they bought it,” he whispered under his breath.

“Barely.”

A gentle ding on his phone. He pulled it out. New Message: Dojima. “Guess I should answer.” He slid next to a wall and opened his phone.

Dojima: You should be out by now. What happened?

Right to the point as always.

Souji: I’m out. Just a few questions. Looks like it’s fine.

Dojima: I see. Don’t hesitate to call if you need something.

That brought a smile to his face. Having amazing friends always at his back felt great, but there was a little added joy to a family member who trusted him so completely. Someone who didn’t know or understand just giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Souji: Thanks.

He closed his phone. “Now what?”

“No more school today?”

“No.”

“Good. Aren’t you the seeker of the truth? Go looking.”

“You’re very helpful,” Souji responded dryly.

“And a parasite,” Butterfly added. “Figure we can investigate Doctor Kishitani or SEBEC.”

“Probably, but how? It’s one thing to ask around a town the size of Inaba, but this is Tokyo.” He looked at the hordes of people moving near the Shinjuku police station. “Not so likely a random person knows something.”

Butterfly appeared beside him. The sudden appearance of another young man drew some startled glances, but it passed quickly.

“Don’t do that.”

“Why not? They’re the ones who reject their own sight.”

Souji sighed. Hard to simply say it made him uncomfortable. “We can’t just hope a lead finds us.”

“Who’s waiting? I’m watching.”

“For what?”

“Butterflies.”

“That means someone’s about to die, right?”

“Yep, so find someone healthy and they’re either suicidal or about to get killed.”

“And that will help us?”

“Unlikely.”

“Then you are waiting.”

“Watching.”

“Whatever.”

“Doesn’t matter.” Butterfly tilted his and smiled slightly at Souji. Souji couldn’t help but offer a similarly small smile in return.

“You know, there was a kid there, someone I think you contacted. He always struck me as odd. Maybe he knows something?”

“Who?”

“Naoki Kashima. Not my favorite kid on the block, but he did hint about you and always carried himself proudly.”

“Reaching.”

“I know. I just don’t know where else to reach. Not like there’s a midnight channel to guide us.”

“No, but we could more actively hunt down other persona users.”

“Just contact our friends then?”

Butterfly shook his head. “Ones we don’t know.”

“Like the Doctor Kishitani and that woman.”

“Yeah.” He gazed out towards the crowd. “So many people. So many thoughts. So many desires. A feast for Shadows.

Souji gazed out as well. He supposed that was true. He’d just never thought about it. Weird they’d never attacked in Tokyo then. How could you even begin to search through a crowd like this?

“We could go back.”

“Back?”

Butterfly nodded. “To Nebula Medical.”

“There were people with guns.”

“Null pierce.”

“They’re undoubtedly ready to deal with persona users.”

“Never worked before.”

“It’s a terrible idea.”

“It’s a lead. I showed up there somehow.”

“The kid. The kid told me to call to you.”

“Pharos. Why was he there?”

“You don’t know?”

Butterfly shook his head. “The missing piece. Trapped. Wonder why.”

“Nothing ever happens purely by accident.”

“A reason. A possibility.”

“How would we even get in?”

“You just missed one session.”

“Through the front?”

Butterfly shrugged. “Or in disguise.”

“Disguise?”

“Lots of people work there.”

“We’d need the coats they wear over their regular clothes. And almost all the nurses seem to be female.”

For a moment the two of them just leaned against the wall. How much easier would this be if he just contacted Naoto or Mitsuru? Souji glanced at Butterfly. The strange being simply watched the crowd, his expression stiff and useless.

A strange cloud crossed Butterfly’s face. “Want to save someone?”

“What?”

“Come on.” He began to weave through the crowd.

“What’s going on?”

“A group of young people, all with souls fluttering away,” Butterfly whispered. “Isn’t that odd?”

“We should follow.”

Butterfly grinned. “Naturally.”


 

The group of youths, five of them, looked around nervously. They stood by an unmarked door down one of Shinjuku’s many alleyways.

The only thing that stood out was a piece of graffiti, a blue butterfly on an otherwise plain wall.

They knocked on the door. Three sharp knocks.

It cracked open.

One of them, the likely leader, spoke, “Tractatus artis bene moriendi. Memento mori.” He spoke clearly and confidently.

The door opened just wide enough for the men to enter. The quickly hurried in and the door closed silently behind them.

The butterfly flew off the wall and around the corner. There he shifted to his human form.

“Well?”

“Tractatus artis bene moriendi. Memento mori.”

“What?”

“I don’t know the first part, but the second part is about remembering your mortality.”

“Your mortality. Why would they-“

“A password. We should follow.”

“But-“

“I doubt they know each other already.”

“It doesn’t make sense. What could this place be? You said they’re all going to die soon.”

Butterfly gave a curt nod. “I think they want to.”

“Want to?”

“Suicide,” he whispered.

“We have to-“

Butterfly pulled him back. Two salarymen passed by and headed down the alleyway.

“Them to?”

A nod. A moment later they heard the sound of a sharp knock.

“No way.”

“Approximately seventy people a day commit suicide in this country.”

“Why do you know that?”

“It’s interesting.”

“No. It’s morbid.”

Butterfly glared at him. “Can we go now?”

“What if we’re wrong?”

“Then we leave. But don’t’ you think this is weird?”

Souji took a deep breath. “Alright.”

Butterfly went up to the door. Souji followed slowly behind him, wincing when his companion knocked on the door. It cracked open.

“Tractatus artis bene moriendi. Memento mori.”

The door slid open. Butterfly and Souji stepped inside. It closed immediately behind them.

A rather sickly looking man, mostly skin and bones and tiny remnants of hair, stood before them. His eyes were sunken in and, in the dim light, he looked more like a ghost than anything. He gestured down the hallway. “First door: final life. Second door: First death. Third door: Final breath.”

Butterfly nodded.

“You may no longer exit, but may stay in final life until you are ready.”

“I understand.”

The man nodded slowly, turning back to the door.

Souji and Butterfly looked at each other.

“Final life then?”

Souji nodded. How could his companion be so upbeat about this? Still, he followed. Final life, first death, final breath. It sounded almost like a chant.

They came to the first door. It seemed to almost vibrate from a bass beat on the other side.

“Ready?” Butterfly asked with a grin.

Souji shoved open the door.

He couldn’t say what he had been expecting beyond that door. It certainly wasn’t what he saw. Strobe lights flashing on and off in an otherwise black room. At least a hundred people, mostly relatively young males, filled the room. Many danced to a harsh electric beat, others stood, crouched, or lay beside walls. Everyone dressed differently, and he saw at least one person not dressed at all.

Then, he registered the smell. Incense and sweat and urine. He gagged.

Butterfly strode forward, easily moving through the crowd and towards the middle of the dance floor. Souji did his best to follow, but the aroma assaulted him and made him queasy.

His companion stopped in the middle and stared up. In the flash of the strobe lights Souji could just make out what appeared to be a viewing platform. Two security guards stood watch, clearly marked by their neat black suits and large guns.

More guns.

The beat felt contagious. He could smell tobacco. The room began to spin. How could they stand this?

Butterfly continued to stare at the platform.

Souji just had to focus on him. Focus. Focus.

Stop.

Everything just stopped. No music. No movement. The lights gone still. Just the smell.

“Final life, first death, final breath.” Everyone in the room began to chant. Or, at least it sounded like it. Souji could no longer focus enough to really tell. “Final life, first death, final breath.” He could just make out movement on the platform. “Final life, first death, final breath.”

A man stepped onto the platform. No one cheered. They just continued chanting. “Final life, first death, final breath.”

Souji couldn’t see the man clearly, but he could feel Izanagi screaming to flee or fight.

The man held up his arms, loose jacket giving the motion a sense of sharp authority. Silence.

“I understand we have reached a peak.” His voice sounded almost like a growl. He dropped his arms. “So many seeking their final life, an end to the life they led. A first death, a true end to care. The final breath, when it all ends.”

It dawned on Souji that the man used no speaker system. His voice simply felt authoritative.

“We have many new guests today. Many faces I have never seen. How do you like it so far?”

Everyone simply stared. No one moved.

“Perfect.” His hiss carried across the room. “For those who do not know I am Kyou, owner of this fine establishment and your aid to achieving the perfect gasp.” He scanned the room.

“Final life,

Remember you are mortal.

First death,

Remember you will die.

Final breath,

A last reach to sky.

Final life, first death, final breath.”

The room responded. “Final life, first death, final breath.”

The man smiled widely enough for Souji, and everyone else in the room, to see it clearly. “All of you, who understand, you are welcome here. Unfortunately, there are times we must clean house. So many of you, so hesitant to proceed to the next door.”

The lights went out.

“Now stay still. Accept your fate. The one you wished.”

The light flashed and moved, shifting around the room. Then stop. Thirteen lights. Thirteen people illuminated under the spotlight. One shone straight down on Butterfly.

“Accept the path you chose.” Others began to circle around the thirteen illuminated. Souji moved closer to Butterfly. “Move on to the next step.”

“A change?” Butterfly’s voice rang through the room. Everyone stopped. “Or an end?”

“Depends on your perspective. For is not ending a change from continuing?” All the lights moved to Butterfly. Souji closed his eyes. Too bright.

“How do you contact these people?”

“I do not.” The man swept out his arms. “They contact each other. A singular rumor floating through their minds. A place to go and end it all. Don’t even have to leave Tokyo. Have a fun time before you do it, leave with no regrets. There is no getting lost on this path.”

“Maybe sometimes we need to get lost to truly change.”

“How cute.”

“True,” Butterfly corrected.

Souji finally opened his eyes. Everyone had backed off and the light shone on both of them. He forced his gaze up to the ringleader.

“And so you finally face me. Come in with this interloper, have you?” Kyou grinned savagely. “Souji Seta, I presume.”

Souji jumped at hearing his name. Beside him, Butterfly trembled. “We were meant to see them.”

“I can’t claim I was against the idea,” Kyou admitted. “Now, about a little game? We all like games, don’t we? Playing hero and detective is so much fun. Makes you somehow better than everyone else.”

Souji stood tall, glaring up at the balcony. “How much do you know?”

“I know that you would deny these people their opportunity for peace. That you would even call yourself a hero for it. Can we really accept that?”

The attendees were beginning to look confused.

“A little butterfly has flown in, attempting to make you side with it. A spark of unwanted light, keeping you awake far past date. Crush its wings. Extinguish the light.”

The music started up again, this time slow and ominous. The lights began to slowly moved around the room.

“They will never understand you. They don’t even want to. Crush its wings. Extinguish the light.”

The circle around them tightened. “Crush its wings. Extinguish the light.”

“Final life, first death, final breath,” Kyou called.

“Final life, first death, final breath.” Hands clenched into fists. “Crush its wings. Extinguish the light.”

Butterfly pressed his back to Souji. “Seem we found the spider.”

“What do we do?”

“We fight.”

“There’s close to a hundred people in here, not to mention Kyou and his security.”

“Then let’s give them a taste. Orpheus!” The persona Orpheus appeared over them both and took the lyre off his back. “Let’s give them a funeral dirge.” The persona began to play.

“Turn up the music,” Kyou ordered.

Techno and string clashed. The attendees charged.

He really didn’t want to do this. “Izanagi no okami!” The powerful persona appeared, illuminating the whole space. The attackers recoiled.

“How cute.”

Souji glared at Kyou, but only for a moment. The entire wall behind the man seemed to wriggle with shadows. No, it didn’t seem to.

“Butterfly, look up.”

“I know.” Orpheus’ music stopped, the persona shifting into Thanatos. “You really all want to die? To leave the world behind? Not even with a bang, but a pathetic whimper?”

“There is no glory to be had in life, not even in our deaths.”

“Shut up,” Butterfly snapped. “You don’t even want to die. You’re nowhere close to wanting to die.” Thanatos roared. Several people fell. Others screamed. “Seta, if you want these people to live you’d better do something.”

“Like what?”

Some of them ran. Some of them simply began to cry. Some of them rushed forward.

A giant glyph covered the floor, familiar symbols slowly etching themselves on the dance floor.

“Oh no.”

It burst forth in purple light. The people who had come anywhere close to them dropped.

“You’re kidding.”

Kyou clapped. “Amazing. Brilliant. I knew you were something more, but this, oh this is beautiful. Glorious beyond even my imagining.”

“What did you do?”

“Do we run or fight?”

“Oh, please do stay.”

“We can’t just leave them here.”

“Then what?” Some of the people were beginning to shake off the fear effect, now cautiously approaching the pair. Another mamudoon began to etch itself on the floor.

“We have to save them.”

“How?”

“I…there has to be a way.”

“Ah yea, the age old question, how do you save someone from themselves?” Kyou mocked. “How do you save someone who doesn’t want to be saved? How do you save someone who believes they are being saved, and that you are the obstacle? Are you really a hero if you lock someone away to keep them safe?”

“Don’t listen to him, Souji.”

“I’m not the one killing people. Though, I suppose it doesn’t count if they want to die. Oh, this is so much fun. To have both of you in my company. Such a treat.”

Izanagi dissipating, leaving only the purple glow of the mamudoon glyph to illuminate the room.

“Extinguish the light.”

“Souji? What do we do? I can’t cast spells forever.” Thanatos roared again.

He took a deep breath. What could he do?

The glyph flared. He could hear more people thump to the floor.

“Souji, I’m not exactly discouraging them. They want to die.”

“Kyou, was it? Answer me. Why? Why are you doing this?”

“Final life, first death, final breath.”

“That’s not a reason!”

Another mamudoon began to rev. The music stopped. Complete silence. Not even the sound of footsteps. Souji could just hear himself breathe.

“First death,” Kyou whispered into the silence.

Souji could hear footsteps. A moment later Butterfly dropped the spell.

“They left. All of them left.”

“I didn’t even hear a door.”

“Heh. The dead tend to be silent.” A small ball of light appeared about their heads.

“What’s that?”

“A light ball.”

“Nice name.”

“Useful item.”

Souji looked around. The light was still dim, but he could just make out the shadows of bodies. Bodies. These were…He couldn’t take it anymore. Souji fell to his knees and puked.

Butterfly moved over to a wall. A moment later regular lights turned on.

Twelve bodies.

Butterfly walked up to one of them. “This man, Kyou, he really knows what he’s doing.”

“Murdering people.”

“He didn’t kill any of them.” Butterfly came over, holding out a hand. “You need to get out of here.”

Souji shook his head. “Search for clues first.”

“Can you handle it?”

“I…yeah, I think I can.” Souji forced himself to his feet. “I…I’m just…”

“Not sure about me?”

Souji slowly nodded.

“Sorry if I’m a bit much. Just remember, death isn’t an end. It’s just a change.”

“A change.” He looked over the bodies. “A change that ends in nothing?”

“Who said there’s nothing? I certainly had something.”

“I’m sorry.” Souji shook his head to try and clear it. “I forget that you’re dead too.”

“It’s fine. I’ll tend to the dead. You take a look around. We’ll want to leave an anonymous tip with the police when we’re done.”

“Agreed and thanks for dealing with that.”

“I’m not scared of death, and I don’t think it’s grand either, but their bodies carried them well and deserve some respect.”

Souji nodded. “I’ll start upstairs then.”

Review: Ghost in the Shell (The New Movie)

Review: Ghost in the Shell (The New Movie)

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Time to write my first review for this blog.  Last night (11/16/2015) I went to the Ghost in the Shell movie.  I haven’t seen Arise, so I was a little nervous about getting lost, but also didn’t want to lose this opportunity.  I love Ghost in the Shell.  I just don’t watch as much anime anymore.  Also, this showing was in English.

Anyway, the review format I’ve decided to play around with is to talk about three things that really stood out to me, be they good or bad, and then give a general opinion of the film.

It is definitely Ghost in the Shell.

As I said, I haven’t seen Arise, but I have heard a few complains about it, and it makes sense.  While still Production I.G. we’ve got new people writing it.  Plus, Arise aside, this movie advertises itself as its own thing.  Any concerns it not feeling like Ghost in the Shell were quickly demolished however.  The intro might seem a little much to those who know the series, but it sets the scene nicely and delivers an in for people new to the series.

Added bonus: It’s just as ridiculously convoluted as you’d expect.

Really lets all the team members come out as characters.

One of my complains with the Mamoru Oshii movies and Stand Alone Complex is that you know there’s a larger core team and yet they barely say, or even do, anything.  They’re just sort of there.  While this movie pushes the Major, Togussa, Aramaki, and Batou, I feel like everyone got a decent amount of time.  They’re a team.  They interact with each other.  All of them.  They have opinions and skills and the Major relies on all of them to get the job done.

Beautiful ending to tie it to the first movie.

If you’ve seen the first Ghost in the Shell movie the last few minutes should look very familiar.  It’s nice to see a prequel series tie in so neatly and, at least to me, didn’t feel forced at all.

Overall

It may not have made much sense, but the new movie holds up as a worthwhile addition to the Ghost in the Shell franchise.  The characters are very much intact and as familiar as they’ve always been and it ties in neatly with the original movie.  Just be prepared for a difficult to follow plot and you should enjoy it quite a bit.

I intend to do another review after I’ve seen Arise and re-watched this.  I’ll be curious how my opinion changes when I’m all caught up.

NaNoWriMo 2015: Fall to Rebirth Chapter 13

NaNoWriMo 2015: Fall to Rebirth Chapter 13

Moon Phase: Waning Full Moon

Help Me

Far as Naoki could tell his parents had spent the night making frantic phone calls and crying. He wanted to tell them he knew how to help, but he honestly didn’t and, even if he did, they wouldn’t believe him. After all, he had to take care of himself first.

The markings had remained through the night and his horn had poked a hole through his mattress. Naoki had bought out the local convenience store’s makeup supply and still wasn’t sure how he could make it through a day. Even just doing his face yesterday had taken a whole bottle to hide the glow.

And that didn’t solve the problem of the yellow eyes. Would those color eye drops work? Probably not and, frankly, as someone who had been blessed with perfect vision his whole life he didn’t relish the thought of shoving something in his eyes.

Besides, the magatama probably wouldn’t like that.

He’d experimented a bit last night, slowly working the parasite down from wherever it liked to hide and out his mouth. Five had come out, and he could still feel more. No wonder he had headaches. To make matters worse they had, far as he could tell, begun to shrivel in the air and he’d been forced to take them in again. He could just about feel the base of his neck squirming.

“Naoki?” his mother called from the door.

“Yeah?”

The handle turned, but she stopped before she actually opened it. “The police will be here soon to talk to us. Please, be honest with them.”

“Yeah.”

“Naoki?”

“What?”

“Do you know anything?”

I know that he’s been kidnapped by the voice of god, Metatron. I also know that’s not an answer that will work. “Only where I found his phone.”

“I wonder what smashed it. I heard you and then it stopped. Did you…?”

Naoki wasn’t honestly sure how to explain last night. It would have been one thing to fabricate a story if he hadn’t fallen and broken the bench, but with that on record he wasn’t sure what explanation to give.

If he gave the truth they’d think he was crazy. If he lied they’d probably notice. Insanity or suspicion. Which would be worse?

“I’ll be ready.”

“Alright.”

He could hear his mother’s slow footsteps.

Naoki stared at himself in the small mirror again. He still had no idea what to do, but he knew he had to do something.

“Don’t suppose any of you can shapechange?” he whispered to himself. Naturally, the demonic parasites didn’t respond.

He looked at the array of creams and powders on his desk. YouTube. He needed YouTube, and maybe pinterest, and perhaps…he glanced at his LINE app. It wasn’t like he didn’t have any female friends. Idea shot down as he remembered that he couldn’t tell her anything either.

He picked up a cream and a cotton ball. Nothing else for it but to do it.


Naoki had never felt like such a delinquent in the entirety of his young life. He sat in his own home being stared down by police on one end and getting holes bored into him from the other. His mother had just about had a heart attack when he’d come out of his room in the dark hoodies and gloves. He’d settled on fingerless gloves since that counted as a fashion statement, but that met he had to pretty much keep his hands carefully in his pockets. He’d managed to get the tops covered, but the makeup came off pretty easily if he actually wanted to us them.

For bonus points it had taken him so long to get everything on just so, and sneak the tape he needed to secure to hood to his horn, that his hair remained completely disheveled. Basically he looked like he had grabbed the most suspicious looking clothes he could find out of his closet and rushed downstairs with no regards to hygiene.

If anything the hours he’d spent of makeup just make him look worse. He knew things weren’t blended right, making it clear he was wearing makeup in the first place, and he highly doubted every little black line remained concealed.

“Sorry I’m late.” Most awkward, ridiculous, thing to say ever, but someone had to break this irritating silence.

“It’s fine,” the plainclothes detective assured him. “I know you’re all very upset right now.” The more normal looking officer beside him, the one who’d reported the bench last night, looked less sure.

“I guess. Honestly, it’s all been so fast I don’t know how to feel.” Naoki could see his father shaking out the corner of his eye. “It just doesn’t feel real.”

“I understand.” The detective slide a business card across the table. “I already gave this to your parents, but you should have one too. I’m Detective Daisuke Sakamoto. I’ll be handling things for a while.”

Naoki took the card with both hands. Why was a homicide detective here?

“I specialize in cases which have grown cold, or which simply have no leads. In this case, I’m most interested in you.”

“In me?”

“That bench was steel and fresh wood,” the policeman grumbled. “And you glowed.”

“Glowed? Bench? Naoki, what is this?”

“Said he was cosplaying.”

“Officer Tanaka,” Detective Sakamoto snapped. “If you would refrain. I want to hear his side of the story before anything else.”

“I understand.”

“Thank you. Now, Kashima-kun, could you tell us what happened last night? How did the bench break? And why didn’t you tell Officer Tanaka about your missing brother? Just take your time and give it to us best you can.”

This one actually seemed competent.

Naoki took a deep breath. He’d have to mix fact and fiction if he stood any chance of escaping excess scrutiny. The last thing he wanted was to throw a bunch of normal humans into a fight against angels.

“I went looking for my brother, to where he’d called. Figured mom could stay and wait for him. You know how these things are. It’s easy to overreact, so we didn’t want to call him in just yet.”

“We do appreciate it when people keep their fears in check, but you must remember your own safety as well.”

“I know, but it’s just our neighborhood, you know? How could anything bad happen here?”

The officer nodded proudly. The detective smiled slightly, likely running through a list of bad things that had happened in this neighborhood.

“Anyway, I went and found his phone. Still on, like he’d dropped it, so I picked it up.” Now what? Up to here was pretty straightforward, but how could he explain seeing his brother there? Or how the phone had gotten smashed? And even worse, that stupid bench?

“And at what point did it break?”

“Looked like someone stepped on it,” Officer Tanaka added.

Naoki resolved to ignore the incompetent policeman and simply direct his commentary towards the detective. “I was holding the phone when I thought I saw my brother. Then, I realized he was slung over someone’s shoulder.”

“Slung over a shoulder?” Officer Tanaka scoffed.

Detective Sakamoto held up a hand to signal the end of anymore such outbursts. “Please, continue.”

At least his parents weren’t verbal about it.

“Maybe I screwed up. I don’t know, but I thought I saw him and went closer, just to get a look, right? And, and I think it really was my brother. Someone jumped me before I got a good look though, must have damaged the bench and stomped on the phone.”

“Why damage the bench?”

“Well, I do have a bench-shaped bruise on my back.” Or would, if it hadn’t healed up already.

“Do you remember anything about the person you think had your brother? Or your attacker?”

Naoki thought for a moment. Maybe he could set them on a route where he’d get more information out of it?

Detective Sakamoto sighed. “Excuse me, Mr. and Mrs. Kashima, but I’d like a word with your son,” he turned to Officer Tanaka, “in private.” He then regarded Naoki again. “Would it be alright if we talked in your room?”

“Sure.”

On the one hand, this could end horribly. On the other hand, Naoki figured he and Detective Sakamoto comprised the entire list of competent people in the room.

“Is that alright with you?”

Naoki could see his father bristle, but in the end he agreed. Personally, Naoki was pretty proud of himself for not smiling to see his father knocked down a peg in his own home.

He led the detective fairly happily to the room he and Yukio shared.

“Your brother sleeps in here as well?”

“Yes.” Naoki closed the door. “I’m on this side of the bunk and he’s on the other.”

“And you’re on the top bunk?”

“Always have been.”

“Do you like it?”

“Alright. Makes me a little claustrophobic sometimes though.”

“Claustrophobic?”

“One thing if it’s curtains or more bed, but there’s something creepy about a ceiling that close to my nose.”

“I see.” He glanced over at Naoki’s desk. “You wear makeup?”

“Sometimes.”

“And apply an entire convenience store’s supply at once?”

“Today.”

“Kashima-kun, would you please take off your gloves?”

“Why?”

“Just humor me.”

“I get cold easily. No circulation to my extremities.”

“Just one glove?”

Naoki held out his left hand. Terrible idea. Horrible, terrible, idea. “Go for it.”

Detective Sakamoto easily slipped the glove off. “Black lines. Glow in the dark outlines. Must take a while to apply.”

Maybe he still had an out. “My parents don’t want me cosplaying. Think it means you’re crazy.”

“You have a job then?”

“I-“

“No, you don’t. So, how do you pay for all of this?”

“You’ve been eating my parents’ stories, haven’t you?”

“They’ve been trying. It takes work for a child to turn his parents so against him.”

“I grew opinions.”

“Grew?”

Naoki did his best to provide a perverted grin. “Puberty.”

“You’re fifteen. Such things should be well underway.”

“Couldn’t hold it down forever.”

Detective Sakamoto backed off. “You refuse to tell me.”

“You’re a detective, not a counselor.”

“Just tell me what you think happened. Tell me straight and I’ll leave.”

“You won’t believe me.”

“I won’t say one way or another. I’ll just leave.”

Naoki shook his head. “Sorry, but I can’t tell you.”

“Why?”

How could he explain this? “You’ll get hurt.”

“I put myself in harm’s way nearly every day. That’s not a good enough reason.”

Naoki looked the detective in the eyes. “I think I can find him. My brother. I think I can find him and rescue him.”

“Don’t endanger yourself.”

“I’m fine.” Naoki held out his ungloved hand. “I can do this. I just need to find him first.”

“I won’t be an enabler.”

“Then just don’t get in my way. I can find him. I can rescue him.”

“And what of the kidnappers?”

“They won’t hurt me.”

“Who said it’s you I’m worried about?”

“They don’t deserve your concern.”

“I protect all citizens of Japan.”

“And they’re not citizens.”

Detective Sakamoto stepped back, leaning against the ajar closet. “You really mean it.”

“Told you I grew opinions.”

The detective shook his head, grinning. “Well, you’re something. Just, call me if you get in over your head. You shouldn’t do this alone.”

“I understand.”

“Very well.” Detective Sakamoto dropped a shallow bow. “Please, don’t get hurt.”

“No promise there.” Naoki returned the bow. “Good to know someone competent is helping bring my brother safely home.”

Detective Sakamoto nodded. “I’ll head out on my own then. You have, makeup to apply.”

“Sorry.”

He shrugged, but Naoki detected a glimmer in the eye. “Until next time.”

With that he headed out the room.

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NaNoWriMo 2015: Fall to Rebirth Chapter 12

NaNoWriMo 2015: Fall to Rebirth Chapter 12

04/05/2015

Allegro

Getting drug around by the voices in your head didn’t exactly match Souji Seta’s idea of a good day, but it seemed to be what was happening. Butterfly had impatiently waited out the week, insisting they stick together via him turning into a hair barrette.

As such, Souji had gone through the week wearing a blue butterfly hairpiece which, unbeknownst to those around him, put him in a near constant state of pain. He had barely made it through the first day and even now felt like he had a constant splitting headache. It had become a dull thud in the back of his head, but his mother was definitely starting to wonder at the number of pain killers.

Now he sat in Starbucks, overlooking Shibuya crossing, while sipping a Macha Frappuccino. Maybe the sugar and caffeine would help.

Butterfly had decided it made a good place to look for anyone suspicious. What he was looking for, Souji had no idea, and he doubted his companion did either, but at least this way he could go on his date without irritating hissing in the back of his head.

“Sorry I’m late.”

Souji looked up and smiled at the girl who came up next to him, holding the same drink he had ordered. She had asked him rather out of the blue just a couple of days ago if he’d be willing to hang out in Shibuya with her and he’d decided to accept thanks to a mix of curiosity and boredom.

“It’s okay, Yumi.” She’d insisted that if they were going on a date they be casual. That suited him just fine. After all, your given name represented you while your family name represented, well, your family. If someone wanted to know the real him they could start by calling him that name which belonged to him.

She smiled and sat down. She had long black hair and wore trendy clothes, though almost always with an emphasis on the color red, and carried a cute black backpack for her purse. They had art together and, even though they approached it from different angles, had found they liked each other’s work. Souji’s was practical, the idea of art as a tool to convey an idea. Yumi preferred abstract drawings with an emphasis on form and emotion. Both looked to convey a thought, but in drastically different ways.

“I hope you haven’t been waiting long.”

Souji shook his head. He’d been here for hours, and was on his fifth drink, but he hadn’t actually been waiting for her long at all. They still weren’t actually supposed to meet for another ten minutes. “I like watching the crosswalk fill.”

“Anyone interesting?”

“Probably.”

The voice in his head piped up. “Three people about to die.”

“What?”

Yumi stared at him wide-eyed. Clearly his indignant question hadn’t fit in with what she had said at all.

“Sorry. I, I just, I heard something. What were you saying?”

“I was asking why it was only a probably.”

“Oh, just hard to tell. They have to really pop out of the crowd.”

“I guess. Anyway, I was planning to hit 109, but then realized they pretty much only have girls’ clothes.”

“I don’t mind.”

“Really?”

Souji shrugged. “You asked me here, right? You must want me there for some reason.”

“Thank you. In all honesty, I want to try out some new things and would love your opinion.” She grinned. “You always dress so nicely.”

“Thanks. Just hope I can help.”

“I’m sure you can.”


After shopping for Yumi she insisted on hitting up some men’s clothing as well, and so Souji now stood on the train with a Shibuya 109 Men’s bag. He’d gotten a new jacket and a couple of pants at her insistence. At least this gave him some time to talk with the irritable voice in his head.

“What did you mean people who were going to die?”

“I can see if people’s souls aren’t strongly attached,” Butterfly explained.

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“It wouldn’t do any good.”

Souji clenched the handle. “We could help.”

“No. Most of them will die of natural causes. A heart attack or a car accident. Others simply no longer wish to live and must exist partially dead for years. There is no way to tell what the cause is, simply that it exists. I know you don’t like it and I’m sorry, but I can’t change anything.”

“But maybe we could.”

Butterfly didn’t respond.

The train pulled into Shinjuku-Sanchome. Souji stepped off to transfer to the Marunochi line.

“Piece of shit.” A burst of high pressure water threw Souji across the platform. He slid on the tile floor.

Someone screamed. Souji looked up to see a giant snake barreling towards him.

Butterfly burst forward, blocking the fangs with his katana. Souji got to his feet as the snake dissipated.

Onlookers kept a wary distance, staring uncertain along the sides. Across the way a disheveled Doctor Kishitani stared him down.

“I’ll eat you all,” he screamed. The snake burst forth again, this time lashing out at whoever was closest. Its fangs passed through the unfortunate onlooker and they fell to the ground, kneeling on their knees as though they no longer had the energy to stand.

“Apathy Syndrome,” Butterfly hissed.

Doctor Kishitani cackled. “Yes, yes, yes, I’ll extinguish you all. All of you, you pieces of shit.”

“Izanagi!”

“Thanatos.”

The two Persona, creation and death, charged forward. The serpent came to meet them. Butterfly immediately released his Persona. Izanagi parried. Souji could feel his energy draining.

“Orpheus.”

What appeared to be a robotic man with speakers for his chest and a lyre on his back, came forward. A dramatic flourish and he sent fire straight at the serpent. It reeled back.

“No, no, no, no, no, no no no no no!” Doctor Kishitani fell to his knees, desperately holding his head.

The serpent pressed forward.

“Zio!”

“Agi!”

It roared as electricity and fire hit its scaled.

Butterfly took his opportunity. “Thanatos, to me,” he whispered. The katana appeared once more in his hands and he pressed forward.

“Apep!”

Butterfly parried the attack, but with electricity raining down on it the snake couldn’t hold the block. It retreated back to Doctor Kishitani, receiving a nasty cut on the way.

The man screamed when it hit.

Souji let Izanagi dissipate and rushed forward.

The snake rushed through the station, dashing through anyone unfortunate enough to still be in its way.

“Is it a persona?”

“No,” Butterfly hissed. “It’s a shadow.”

“Shadow?”

Doctor Kishitani stood. “Yes, a shadow. The truth of humanity, the reality of the setting sun. It is Apep, and he is born of the desire to give up, to simply embrace what must be.”

“That’s not a way to live,” Souji snarled.

“If you want to give up then just do it,” Butterfly reprimanded. “Stop harming those who seek to live.”

Doctor Kishitani laughed. “No one really wants it.” Apep came beside him once more. “Just to sit quietly. No more ambition. No more corruption, acts of control, just peace and quiet.”

“This can’t be what you want.”

“But it is, and you’ll help me achieve it.”

Apep rushed Butterfly.

“Loki,” Souji called. A burst of fire descended upon the shadow. It screamed.

Butterfly rushed for Doctor Kishitani. “You will not take their will away.”

The man tried to run, but Apep couldn’t get out of Souji’s inferno and that seemed to hinder the person attached to it as well.

“Enough!”

Another creature appeared, blocking Butterfly’s swing with crocodile teeth. Butterfly jumped back to see either a persona or a shadow with the head of a crocodile, the forequarters of a lion, and the hindquarters of a hippopotamus.

Apep disappeared

A woman, wearing a business suit, came down the stairs.

Souji moved beside Butterfly, who continued to back away from the newcomer.

The woman stood beside Doctor Kishitani. “The idiot wasn’t ready to combat slavers of your charisma.” She looked around at the apathy syndrome victims. “What a mess.”

“Who are you?” Souji demanded.

“What did you do?”

“So many questions.” She put a hand on Doctor Kishitani’s shoulder. “Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to disclose such information quite yet. One never shows their hand until the game’s end. Traesto.”

She and Doctor Kishitani vanished.

Souji looked, dumbfounded, around the platform. It hadn’t been overly busy, but there were still at least a dozen people kneeling on the ground with apathy syndrome.

“We should make sure none of them are near the tracks,” Butterfly whispered. He glanced up at the announcement board. Only one minute until the next train.

Someone new came down the escalator and just stared. Souji tried to ignore them as he placed people against the wall. He was about to say something about calling a hospital when a station manager ran down.

“What happened here?”

Butterfly’s katana became a series of small blue butterflies who fluttered away. He approached the confused manager. “We’re not really sure, but they probably need a hospital.” He motioned to Souji. “He’s making sure none of them get hurt when the train comes, but I don’t know what’s wrong with them.”

“Ah, right, do you need me to contact an ambulance then?”

“Probably. I hope they’re okay.”

The manager nodded before pulling out a radio to contact someone.

Souji came up to Butterfly. “What now?”

“We should leave. He’s too confused to ask questions, but we can’t guarantee the next people will be too.”

“Are you sure?”

Butterfly nodded. “We wouldn’t be able to give good answers. That could end poorly.”

“I guess so.” Souji looked around at the victims. “It just doesn’t sit well with me.”

“It shouldn’t, but staying would only cause more trouble.”

“I know.”

Souji and Butterfly calmly exited platform. Best to just act like nothing had happened, right?


Butterfly had stayed quiet through dinner, waiting to say anything until Souji got up to his room. At that point he resumed his more human form and sat on the bed.

“You’re angry.”

Souji pulled out his phone to check messages. “Not really.”

“Best to tell me straight.”

“I’m fine.”

Kirijo: There have been cases of apathy syndrome. Everyone stay on alert.

Yosuke: Seriously! Where?

Rise: You’re kidding, right?

Amada: Any idea what caused it?

Naoto: They were in Shinjuku.

Chie: Shinjuku? Does that even make sense?

Teddie: This is beary pekoalier.

Yosuke: Dude. Seriously?

Yukiko: Doesn’t Souji live near there?

Chie: Oh man, and he hasn’t responded yet.

Yamagishi: I’ve identified the victims. It’s not public knowledge yet, but none of them match his description.

Labrys: Sis and I are heading over there now to check it out. We’ll let you know if we find anything.

Yosuke: I hate to bring this up, but what if it’s Minazuki?

Labrys: All the more reason for us to be the ones who handle it.

“Busy?”

“Sorry. It is a lot to read sometimes.” Souji looked over to Butterfly. “I don’t know what to say.”

“They’re talking about the apathy syndrome, right? You can at least tell them you’re fine.”

“But is that all I can tell them?”

“It’s all I would.”

Souji held his phone tightly. “It’s Mitsuru Kirijo who set out the alert, and a lot of your old friends are responding. Aigis and Labrys even went over there to check on things. You can’t keep them out of this.”

“They won’t get far.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Those people, the ones with the shadows, they’re after us. Now that I’m whole I thought it would just be me, but that doctor seemed intent on you too.”

“Guess I did mess things up.”

“Maybe, but I think it’s more than that.”

“That woman called us slavers.”

Butterfly nodded slowly.

“Why would she say that?”

“I wonder.”

Souji stared at his companion a moment, hoping for more, but it didn’t seem to be forthcoming. He looked back down at his phone.

Yukiko: Please, let us know if you find anything.

Labrys: Well do. You guys just sit tight.

A time jump in the discussion.

Aegis: We have completed our search and found simply residue and scorch marks. It appears some form of combat occurred within the station.

Yosuke: Scorch marks?! Anyone badly hurt?

Labrys: Didn’t find anyone, but it is weird, huh? Fuuka’s checkin’ the cameras now.

Aegis: Akihiko and Detective Kurosawa and checking up on the victims now. According to initial reports no one was ‘harmed’ per se.

Yosuke: Because apathy syndrome isn’t harmful.

Labrys: Any word from Souji yet?

Yosuke: Nah. I tried calling him, but he didn’t pick up. His parents apparently get really strict about using the phone when he’s around them, so hopefully it’s just that.

Labrys: Alright. I hope he’s okay.

Yosuke: Why wouldn’t he be?

Aegis: A young man matching his description was seen at the station shortly after the apathy syndrome broke out. According to the station master there were three people there. One who had run up to get him just after arriving, one with silver hair and a height close to Souji, and a smaller man whom he spoke to. The smaller man apparently had bright blue eyes and messy black hair, as well as an interesting coat.

Labrys: Yeah, the guy kept going on about this witness. Must have really stood out.

“They’re talking about you.”

“Whatever.”

Yosuke: Sounds kind of cool.

Aegis: Have you never seen anyone of that description before?

Yosuke: Nope. If the other guy really is Souji then this isn’t one of his friends from Inaba.

Finally, a fresh message.

Souji: Did someone say my name?

Yosuke: Yo!

Labrys: Good to hear from you.

Aegis: Thank goodness you’re alright.

Souji: Why wouldn’t I be?

Yosuke: There were some apathy syndrome cases in Shinjuku.

Souji looked over to Butterfly. “I can’t lie to them.”

“Then just avoid the truth.”

“That is lying. I trust all of them completely.”

“I don’t want them involved.”

“Why not?”

Butterfly looked away. “I don’t want to hurt them again.”

“Again?”

“Souji,” he looked back up, “I’m not Arisato anymore, and even if I were, I’m dead. That doesn’t suddenly change. I’m dead. I will never be alive again. When this is over, I will still be dead. I don’t want them to have to say goodbye again.”

Souji looked back down at his phone. “Guess I can understand that.”

Souji: I passed through Shinjuku today, but it was just on the way to Shibuya and back.

Yosuke: Shibuya?

Souji: Yeah. I had a date.

Labrys: Date?

Yosuke: DATE?! Pictures, now.

Souji smiled sadly. It felt bad not to tell them, but at least he’d gotten the conversation onto something he could talk about.

NaNoWriMo 2015: Fall to Rebirth Chapter 11

NaNoWriMo 2015: Fall to Rebirth Chapter 11

Moon Phase: Full
Complication

“That doctor still hasn’t gotten in with your results, has he?” Naoki’s mother asked shortly after the family sat down for dinner. Well, shortly after she and her older child sat down for dinner. Yukio had cram school and his father had social commitments.

“Nope,” Naoki lied. He knew it wouldn’t be perfect, but he had burned the sealed envelope the moment he’d seen it. Good thing his dad smoked. Lighters were never in short supply in their home.

“I hope it’s nothing serious.”

“Probably just a mistake.”

“Yeah.” She put the chopsticks down. “Naoki?”

“Yeah?”

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “You haven’t been,” she opened them again, “involved in anything illegal, have you?”

“Of course not.”

“I hope you’re telling the truth.”

“Why do you think I’m not?”

“Well, you’re behavior. It’s just so odd lately. Chiaki said she barely sees you at all lately and you don’t even seem to hang around Isamu.”

“She told you that?”

“Her mother. You should know by now that mothers still together. Anyway, if there’s something wrong you should tell your parents. I’m here to take care of you.”

He shrugged. She never had really worried about him before, but he supposed he could appreciate the sentiment. Better late than never right?

“Naoki.” Her phone rang, a happy tune of fake bells and whistles. In other word, wholly obnoxious. She answered immediately. “Hello? Oh, Yukio. Yes. I see. No, it’s fine. Thanks for letting me know.” She hung up. “Your brother just called.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Something happened on the train and it went a little late, but he’s on his way home now and will be back soon in just a couple of minutes. He just didn’t want me to start worrying.” She glanced over at his empty space. “Such a good boy to call.”

Naoki put down his chopsticks. “Guess we can wait then.”

“Of course. I knew his cram school had run a little late, so I wasn’t too worried yet, but it is getting late.” She looked at the clock on her phone. Yukio would have usually been back at least an hour earlier. “Such a good child,” she muttered.

“Am I his opposite then?”

“What?”

“Am I his opposite? If he’s good am I bad?”

“What? I…of course not. That’s not what I meant at all. You can both be good.”

“Liar,” Naoki muttered. He highly doubted his mother’s opinion had spontaneously approved. Luckily, she didn’t seem to have heard him.

She looked at her phone again.

“It’s only been a minute.”

“I know. I just feel uneasy. I’m not really sure why.”

He hadn’t expected that, but now that she mentioned it… “Call Yukio.”

“What?”

“Just call him.” Maybe it was simply lingering paranoia from too long surrounded by demons, but Naoki could feel his gut dropping the way he had so many times before, and always right before an ambush. He began carefully looking around the room.

“I don’t think…”

“It won’t do any harm, right? And if something is wrong then you’ll know sooner.”

His sudden commands may have bothered her, but they had the desired effect. She pulled out her phone and dialed. A ring. A second ring.

“Hello? Mother?”

“Yukio.”

“Yeah, what’s up? Need me to pick something up from the store?”

“No, I just, I don’t know what came over me.”

“Huh? Okay. I’ll see you-“

“Yukio?”

“What?” Naoki could no longer make out the words over the phone.

“Yukio? Yukio, who’s there? Who’s with you?”

Naoki felt like the bile rising up in his throat. Demons were near, demons he wasn’t very compatible with.

“Yukio?” She looked up to Naoki. “He’s not answering. I can tell the phone’s still on, but…”

Naoki rushed for the foyer. “I’ll go check on him.”

“What?”

He pulled on his coat. “You just stay on the line in case it’s a misunderstanding. He takes the same route every time so we should bump into each other.”

“But what if something really has happened?”

“Then I’ll call the cops. Or run home and you can do it. Whatever the case, we’ll handle it.”

She nodded. “Alright. I’ll see if I can get him to pick up again.”

Naoki nodded before charging out the door.

He knew the blonde kid had warned him that the servants of god would seek retribution, but would they really go after his family? It didn’t seem right, but then again, it didn’t seem too impossible either.

Fortunately, there was only really one reasonable route from the train station to their apartment building. You could go the other way to pass a decent grocery store, but it definitely added time. If Yukio had been heading straight home his route was completely predictable. And if he’d been asking about the store he was probably still pretty near the station.

He could feel the sensation of dread welling up while he ran. The back of his neck burned.

His vision began to blur.

Someone bumped into him. Or maybe he bumped into them. Instinctively, he rolled away.

They were demons everywhere. He jumped to his feet, ready to attack. The drunk salaryman had already walked well passed him.

Naoki could feel the adrenaline. He resumed running for his brother.

What if this was a trap? What if there really were demons? What if it was just a normal human kidnapper? What if they had guns? He’d have to get in close right away then. Just take them out before they get a chance to fire.

What if they already had his brother hostage? Then you wait and follow. Find their hideout and plan an attack and rescue mission.

Who would want to kidnap a freakin’ middle-schooler from a middle class family? They weren’t even particularly upper middle-class. It had to be demons. Maybe his brother just seemed like an easy target. There no longer were demons. Right?

There was a small park right by the station. If his brother would have been notably away from anyone it would have been while going through that park. Both of them had long used that route as a shortcut, a far more pleasant trip than walking alongside the street.
He stepped onto the park grounds. He nearly doubled over from the sudden sensation of just, gross. His head felt like it would split open. That did double him over.

Naoki gasped for breath. It hurt so much, and he could just barely make out a wriggling near his spine. It seemed to be moving up. His right eye began to pound as the blood circulation got messed up.

The magatama. It had to be the magatama.

He forced his gaze forward. He could just see the glow of a phone still connected to a call.

Slowly, Naoki forced himself to his feet. One step at a time he moved towards the phone.

He could see no one else around, but in his current state he wasn’t entirely sure he’d be able to tell anyway. His vision didn’t want to focus. It took everything he had just to march to the phone.

He fell in front of it. “Hello?”

“Naoki! Naoki, is that you?”

Oh yeah, his mother. So this was Yukio’s phone. “Yeah. I’m here.”

“Are you alright? You sound like something’s wrong. Where’s your brother?”

“Gimme a moment.” Naoki scooped up the phone. He then looked around carefully from his kneeling position. Except for his missing brother nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
A feather gently floated down. Naoki reached out his hand to catch it. At first it appeared white, but upon closer examination he could make out what appeared to be silver wire.
He slowly lifted his head. A metal angel, holding his brother limply under an arm, stared down at him. Naoki clenched his fists.

“I still see the darkness in your soul. You disregarded my warning…you are beyond the point of redemption, yet you continue to see it. Know that your quest is in vain. I cannot turn a blind eye to such unfettered power, born of the fallen angel and set to destroy cosmos. Listen, Fiend! Foul demon whose soul is tainted with darkness. Listen and tremble in fear. I am Metatron. I am one with god. What I do is as he wills.”

The angel held forth a hand, palm forward. Naoki rolled into a ball. Light, the judgement of god, fell upon him.

Naoki screamed. His scream lowered. Naoki roared.

He leapt for the offending angel. He didn’t even register his hands forming fists, or the phone crunching in his hand. He just went in for the kill.

Metatron quickly flew higher.

Naoki reached out. If he could just get a grip.

Black lines marked his outreached hand, outlined in a shining blue.

He missed and fell heavily to the ground. The bench broke as he landed through it.

He snarled.

Metatron vanished.

Naoki stood, pieces of bench falling off his jacket. At least the pieces that hadn’t simply impaled themselves through his clothes.

Shit. Now what he was supposed to do? And what did they want with his brother anyway?

“Is anyone hurt?”

Naoki turned just in time to see a police officer rounding the corner. He must have seen the light from Metatron’s almighty attack.

The man stopped and stared at Naoki. Naoki had no trouble staring back.

“What happened here?”

Oh yeah, he was still staring in the middle of the broken bench. Naoki looked up at one of the trees in the area. “That really hurt.”

The officer didn’t follow his gaze, but kept staring at him.

Naoki looked down at his hands. Huh. He still glowed. He did his best to offer a harmless smile. “Just a cosplay.” He’d look like a dork, but that had to be an improvement over looking like a monster in this situation. “I was working on something for a photoshoot tomorrow and fell out of the tree.” And broke the bench. Okay, not the most believable story he’d ever heard, but hopefully it would be enough to offer a reasonable excuse for the poor officer. He probably wouldn’t believe the truth anyway.

The man nodded slowly. Looked like he was weighing those odds himself. He came closer.

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah. I think so. Probably just some bruising.” Saying he was entirely uninjured would have looked even more suspicious.

“You better get home then.”

Naoki nodded. “Am I free to go then?”

“What’s your name and address? I’ll look around and contact you if we have more questions.”

“Oh, alright then. Naoki Kashima.” He pulled out his student ID. “Well this work? I really need to get home.”

“Alright. You’ll just need to come with me while I get it copied and gather a testimony from you. This is pretty serious damage to public property. You can call your parents from the station.”

Right. Maybe mentioning a student ID had been a bad idea. Still, Naoki couldn’t help but nod. He didn’t really want to make more of a scene than he already had.

Previous

NaNoWriMo 2015: Fall to Rebirth Chapter 10

NaNoWriMo 2015: Fall to Rebirth Chapter 10

03/31/2015
All the Strange Strange Creatures

Souji woke up, still fully dressed, on top of his bed. The sky was still dark, only the glow of the city lights providing illumination.
Well, that and the strange glowing blue butterfly.
He wasn’t sure how or when, but it became the being who had been Arisato, and turned towards him. “How are you feeling?”
Well, his back ached. He couldn’t feel his legs. And he had a splitting headache. “Alive.”
A smirk. “Good enough.”
Souji forced himself to sit up. He could vaguely remember now. They’d run until he’d finally gotten his wits about him and gotten on the train. He’d then let this…thing to his room only to collapse on the bed the moment he closed the door. He glanced at the clock. Well past midnight.
“Don’t push.”
“Just sitting up. Was my mom a pain?”
“Your mom? No one came to the door.”
“I see. Well, that simplifies things a bit. Probably just saw my sho-“ Oh, his shoes were actually still on his feet.
“You were exhausted, and still panicked until you came here.”
Souji pulled out his phone. “I see.” No swarm of messages, so there apparently hadn’t been any news.
The being who had been Arisato sat beside him, though carefully avoided any contact. “Now what?”
“You stayed with me. Why?”
A shrug. “You reached for me. I just…grabbed on.”
“Is that all? What about that child?”
“Child?”
“Yeah, blue eyes, prison stripes?”
“Sounds like Pharos. That would make sense. I feel, much more coherent now.”
“You haven’t tried to kill me yet either.”
“Sorry about that.”
“Why’d you stop before?”
“Huh?”
“We were fighting. Something calmed you down.” One advantage to not having undressed was that he still at least had his wallet on him. Souji pulled out the burnt out joker card. “I think it was because of this.”
He stared at it a moment. “I think so too.”
“Do you remember why?”
“Where did you get it?”
“Where?”
“Yeah.”
“I don’t really remember. Another kid gave it to me in elementary school.”
“Why?”
“I don’t really remember, but I kept it with me. Just became a habit.”
“Me too.”
“What?”
“A burnt joker card. Same set, I think. I carried one too.”
Souji just stared at him a moment. “Do you think it’s from you?”
He shrugged. “Maybe. Does it matter?”
“I guess not now,” Souji put it back, “but it definitely did.”
“Why did you chase me?”
“You’re a little dangerous.”
“A lot dangerous. I see.”
“Do you know Margaret?”
“Margaret?”
“She’s Elizabeth’s older sister, I believe. Anyway, she told me about you. She’s my assistant in the velvet room. Or, she was.”
“You know the velvet room?”
“Yeah.”
“Orpheus.”
“What?”
“My first persona. Orpheus.”
“Izanagi.”
“Arcana?”
“Fool.”
“Fool,” the one who had been Arisato echoed. “We’re the same.”
“Final arcana?”
“Universe.”
“Then not quite. I’m the World.”
“I see, but I felt you. It felt nice, comforting, like a good bath it cleaned me.” He looked at his hands. “It hurts, but I can see through it.”
“See through what?”
“The pain.”
“Pain?”
“Yeah. Hey, what should I call you?”
“Oh. My name’s Souji Seta. You can just call me Souji, if you want.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. If you really are, were, Arisato then you’re my senpai. Speak of, if you aren’t Arisato now, then who are you?”
“Ryo- no, I don’t know. I know who I was, but that’s not who I am.”
“Then what do I call you?”
He shrugged. “Don’t know.”
Souji sighed. “This is going to be hard enough as it is.”
“Sorry.”
“It’s alright. I just need, something. My parents are going to need an explanation.”
“Why?”
“Because you’re here?”
“Not a problem.” He seemed to shrink then, or maybe concentrate, until he was a shining blue butterfly. He then became human again. “I think I could become an object like that as well.”
“And object?”
He nodded. “You could…wear me.”
“I see. Guess that solves the problem, but I still want something to call you.”
“I don’t know.”
“Something that describes who you are now.”
“Who I am. Hmmm.”
“Any ideas?”
“Would you have any?”
“Not really.”
“Well then. How about you name me?”
“What?”
“Name me. What would you call me?”
“I don’t know. Orpheus?”
He shook his head. “Only Arisato.”
“Okay then, the kid was Pharos, right?”
“Only a piece.”
Souji sighed. This really was difficult and he was still too tired to spend forever crafting a name. Yet, it felt important to do it now, to establish that bond while he had the chance. “I don’t know. Butterfly?” It seemed stupid, but maybe they get ideas out of that.
“Butterfly?” He thought for a moment. “Butterfly.”
“Not much of a name, is it?”
“Butterfly. Not a name, an identity.”
“Really? That’s almost as bad as if I called you Tiger Festival.”
He shook his head. “But I am a butterfly, so why not be Butterfly? I like it.”
“Really?” Souji smiled.
Butterfly nodded. “Yeah, so would you call me that?”
“Well, it was my idea. Just didn’t think you like it.”
Something flashed in his head. A tarot card and a voice.
“Thou art I… And I am thou…
Thou hast established a new bond…
It brings thee closer to the truth…
Thou shall be blessed when creating Personas of the Universe Arcana.”
Souji stared at Butterfly. Butterfly stared back.
“Did you just have weird voices in your head?”
Butterfly nodded. “A new community. A new bond.”
“You too?”
“Yeah. You really are the world.”
“And you’re really the universe. I…”
Butterfly put a finger to his lips. “Can you access the velvet room?”
“Not on my own. Not now anyway. You?”
He shook his head. “I don’t think so. I haven’t seen a door.”
“Then we’re both fools with nowhere to go.”
“We went to each other.”
“You think so?”
Butterfly nodded. “We have to stop them.”
“Yeah.” Souji pulled out his phone again. “What do you know about it?”
“They were trying to catch me, I think. They only had a piece though and now that I have it back I’m whole.”
“So they were trying to use other Persona users to lure you in?”
Butterfly shook his head. “Not quite. I felt it. A persona dying.”
“A persona dying?”
“I don’t know how, but they were doing something to them.”
“I got that impression too. That’s why I ran.”
Souji: Anymore news on Nebula Medical?
“Who did you contact?”
“Naoto and,” Souji paused. He hadn’t even thought about it, but what if Butterfly wasn’t okay with this? “Naoto and Kirijo, Mitsuru.”
Butterfly’s gaze dropped. “I see.”
“I just asked them if they’ve gotten any more information. Mitsuru now runs an organization-“
“I know!” He held himself. “I wish she didn’t.”
“What’s wrong?”
Butterfly looked away. “You should rest. They might pursue.”
“I don’t think they’d attack me in my home.”
“Just go to sleep.”
“After I shower.”
Butterfly glared at him for a moment. Then, he just about jumped into the form of a butterfly and flew over to the windowsill.
This was going to get interesting.


“Welcome to the velvet room.”
Souji opened his eyes to the same blue room he’d been in before. A pianist played a gentle tune while a painter worked on a canvas. Margaret had greeted him.
“Igor’s still gone.”
She nodded. “Some of them have returned with grim news.”
“About Butterfly?”
“Butterfly?”
“Ah, the one who was Arisato. He didn’t want to be called that.”
Margaret closed her eyes. “I see. You have already established a bond. It’s still weak, but I can feel it.” She opened her eyes again. “Don’t trust him.”
“Why? Didn’t he sacrifice his life to help people?”
“Yes, but you said it yourself. He does not believe he is the same person.”
“So?”
“He’s correct. The being before you is a herald.”
“A herald?”
Margaret took a deep breath. The pianist stopped playing. The painter stopped painting. “You have encountered similar entities before, but a herald is still somewhat different. They are not human pawns, or persona, or even shadows. They are tied to the human will, but in a way which is entirely different from other beings you have so far encountered.” She sighed. “They are drawn to this world through human desire and help bring forth the desired conclusion. They represent other, more powerful, beings and work in that other being’s goals.”
“We’ve encountered that before.”
“This is different. He is no longer Minato Arisato. Nor is he the thirteenth shadow, the herald of Nyx, that Arisato and his friends fought back. Just as the shadow world is connected to all of humanity it is also connected to divinity.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The being before you now is the completed Thanatos.”
“Thanatos?”
“Death. Purely death. When enraged he slaughters thousands in bloody war. When calm he brings them to a peaceful sleep.”
“And it was incomplete before?”
“Yes. Simply a Shadow. A powerful one, but a shadow, working on that level. Many deities have thrown pieces of themselves away, destroying the tether between themselves and humanity so that they may act independently. These become powerful shadows, the repressed desires of gods themselves, engorged on the emotion humans send to them. Unfortunately, its time with Arisato seems to have allowed it accept its attachment and, after its defeat, it has chosen to fully fuse. The being before you now is a god.”
“Gods? Demons? I don’t get this.”
Margaret smiled. “I know, and this should never have happened. At some point it was decided that the Shadows would come here while the gods and demons remained apart. Unfortunately, at least in that instance, that seems to have broken down.”
The pianist started playing a mournful melody.
“So, he’s a god?”
“Fundamentally, yes, or at least he is directly tied to one. Think of Arisato as the persona, the tie to humanity, for a god.”
“And you don’t me to trust him?”
“Do not assume his goals and desires align with your own. He is still a herald, and still a god of death.”
“I feel kind of bad though.”
“Don’t feel bad about it. While I would not mention this discussion to him, I do not think he would be bothered. I’m sure he understand this as well. However, I do believe he will still seek to protect his friends. Otherwise the world could easily have ended without anyone ever becoming aware of it. He is calm now, and when Thanatos is calm he does not wish to cause pain. Remember that as well.”
“So he’s trying not to hurt his old friends.”
“I believe so. His bonds are as important to him as yours are to you.”
Souji nodded. “I think I get it then. He should help with Nebula Medical then, if they’re hurting persona users. We just don’t know what comes after.”
Margaret nodded. “I will summon you again when my master returns with more news.”
“Thanks.”
A ring echoed in Souji’s head.
“I believe it is time for you to wake up.”
“Until next time.”
Margaret smiled, fading away in fog. A moment later he opened his eyes.
A glowing blue butterfly rested on the pillow right beside his head.