The building shuddered. Someone shouted. Terror spread from the rooftop. This wasn’t an earthquake, those usually came in waves.
Something had landed.
Souji Seta sat bolt upright in his bed. Quick glance at the clock. It innocuously lit up the numbers 12:00.
A gentle piano melody played from his phone. He grabbed it like it had been sounding sirens.
“Ah good…you answered.”
No words would even come to him. Almost three years had passed since he had last heard this voice.
“Do you remember me?”
“Margaret,” he breathed. How could he ever forget?
She sighed, letting go a breath she had been evidently withholding. “I know it is not my place, that I am merely an observer and that you have completed your contract many times over, however…”
Souji moved the covers aside.
Margaret evidently heard the rustle of sheets.
“Thank you. You may have noticed a disturbance.”
“On the roof.” He stood up.
“It’s my sister. She’s in trouble.”
Souji stopped. Her sister? Did she mean? “You mean, Elizabeth, the lethal elevator attendant, Elizabeth?”
“You must help her. If she is killed then the situation will become irreparable.”
Fine, but… “What could she need help with?” He’d only met her a couple of times and even thinking about it brought back unpleasant memories of megidolan. He began moving to the door again. Whatever it was, he couldn’t say no.
“Thank you. Fight as the World and the Fool and you’ll be fine.”
As the World and the Fool?
“Just because someone meets death doesn’t mean it has to their own.”
A click as she hung up. What did that mean? Whatever the case, he had to hurry. If Elizabeth was in trouble things were definitely bad.
He sprinted out the door to his room, slammed on his shoes at the entryway, shoved open the door and let it slam behind him, then charged to the outside stairwell.
Now that he was outside, he could feel it. Adrenaline flowed. Izanagi flared up within him. He hadn’t felt that at all for years now. A few training sessions with the Shadow Operatives, but nothing like this. This was the sensation of combat. The sensation of impending death.
Three floors later and he heard a shout. He couldn’t make out the words, but the unusually high pitch sounded like Elizabeth.
One more floor. A male screaming. Lights were beginning to turn on inside people’s apartments.
Last floor. A man met him on the stairs, screaming in terror. Souji rushed past him. Set of thuds and sudden silence following behind him.
The young man threw the access door open. The fear was palatable now. A wail echoed off the Tokyo skyline and shook him to his core.
“Stop it, stop it, stopit, stopit, stpit.” A man screaming, voice shuddering. He charged forward, strange Taser-like device forward.
“Don’t kill him.”
That was Elizabeth. Souji still hadn’t taken in the huge, dark form before him, familiar yet drastically different from anything he had ever seen. He hadn’t registered what blood on the katana meant. He just lurched forward.
This man would die if he didn’t do something.
Izanagi’s double-sided sword blocked both weapons, the Taser from hitting the creature and the creature’s katana from slicing off the man’s head.
“Shit, shit, shit, shitshitshit!” The man reeled backwards, slamming hard on the concrete roof.
Something felt wrong, but Souji couldn’t identify it. Even as Izanagi fought to keep the two combatants separate, Souji moved towards Elizabeth.
She was laying down on the edge of the roof, just upright enough to see what was happening. Her hat was missing and her arms dangled at an odd angle.
“Elizabeth, are you alright?”
“I am afraid I am quite dying.”
“What?” A sharp pain ran through his body. He could feel Izanagi disperse. One hit. It had only taken one solid hit.
“Don’t, don’t let him kill that man,” Elizabeth whispered. “Don’t let Death win.” Elizabeth’s head drooped down then.
“Wha-? Elizabeth? Elizabeth!”
A chain rattled. Souji looked back up to see the creature had turned all of its attention on him.
For a moment they both just stayed completely still. The creature breathed heavily, coffins on its back shuddering with each breath. Then Souji stood.
“She’s still alive, but hurt. I have to help her.” The creature just stared. “Who are you?”
“A..am? I am no one,” it growled. “I am…I am dead.” It charged.
“Izanagi, protect me.” Souji felt his foot slide against the fallen Elizabeth as the two blades rang against each other. Just having Izanagi contact that katana hurt, even if it was blade to blade.
“Are you a shadow?”
Two voices. Two responses.
“Are you a persona?”
Come on, Izanagi. You can hold through this.
“Are you a persona user?”
It backed up. “Are you?” it asked, two voices speaking together.
Souji nodded. “Why are you trying to kill someone?”
The persona-user thing looked over to where the man had been, but he had vanished during their little argument.
“He will kill you.”
“Don’t worry about him now. This woman, Elizabeth, she’s hurt.”
The creature looked back at him before looking down at Elizabeth. It stepped back.
“Did I do that?”
“I don’t know, but she’s hurt and needs help.”
“I…I cannot help her.” It stepped back.
“Wait? Who are you?”
“I am no one.”
“Who were you?”
“I was…I was,” the voices garbled the names, “Ryato Morisato.”
It jumped off the roof.
Souji charged to that side of the roof to look down.
A single blue butterfly, glowing softly slowly blended in with the night lights.
“Why was Elizabeth with you?”
Souji looked back over to the fallen attendant. There was no way he could take her to a hospital. And he couldn’t bring her home. His parents would freak. If he left her here she would either die or get taken to a hospital when people final got the courage to investigate.
They might even be coming up the stairs now.
A blue door, like a haze in the air, answered his questions. Gently, he lifted Elizabeth and approached the door. All he could do now was hope that it was possible to enter the velvet room physically.
Carrying the unconscious attendant, he stepped through.
The velvet room no longer looked like a limousine. It looked like, well, a nice room decorated in blue velvet. A man, who also looked like an elevator attendant, rushed towards him.
“Oh, dear sister, what have you done this time? May I take her now? I should really see to her wounds?”
“Ah, yeah.” Souji carefully handed Elizabeth over. Hmm, maybe he had met this man before?
“Theodore, be careful with our sister.”
“Yes, sister.” Theodore carefully took her to a back room. Wait, since when had the velvet room had a back room?
“Thank you for answering my call.” Margaret came up to him.
“Yeah, but, what happened?” The room had a microphone, a piano, and a canvas which he had never seen before.
“To my sister? Or to the room?”
“This is what you might think of as the velvet room’s default state. When there is no specific contract it appears as this. Though, I believe they are all off with Master Igor to investigate something.”
“They? Other residents?”
“Yes. We have had need of a singer, a pianist, and a painter in previous times, and so their accouterments remain.”
“Do they still dwell here?”
“Where else would they dwell?”
Souji nodded. She had a point there. “Then, what happened to Elizabeth?”
“I had told you she was looking for someone?”
“Yeah, something like that.” Probably. He honestly didn’t remember. Getting handed it by Elizabeth during the P-1 Grand Prix had somewhat erased other memories involving her.
Margaret chuckled. “Still looking for the answers. Well, she found him.”
“Found him? That thing?”
“That thing was a persona user, a powerful one.” She gestured for him to sit on the sofa.
“A persona user? The one she assisted?”
Margaret nodded somberly. “We offer assistance. We do not dictate the outcome. Not even for ourselves. She grew fond of him. Too fond.” She looked kindly at Souji then. Now that he thought about it, he did remember some of this conversation. “He died to protect those he loved and she searched for him.”
“And that…thing was him?”
Margaret shook her head. “No. I briefly met him, but he would never have abandoned my sister.”
“He shared her feelings?”
“I believe so, yes. I do not think he could have been with her so much if he did not.” Margaret sat down across from Souji. “We will learn when Elizabeth comes to, but I believe his experience have left him badly injured.”
“There were two voices.”
“Perhaps the others will have news as well.”
“I want to help.”
“Can I come back of my own will? Now that I’ve been here again? I tried. Every time I returned to Inaba I looked for the door.”
“Your contract is ended. Your story done. And so is his.”
“The journey doesn’t end until we find the truth. If there is a mystery to solve there is a truth to find.”
“That may be so, but…”
“Margaret, you know I won’t stay out of it.”
“I know, and so you need not worry. If that is true then you will return. Perhaps, even if it is not in your destiny, I will suggest it to my master. Perhaps, even if your story is done, you can still play a major role in someone else’s.”
“I’ll do anything I can to help.”
Souji could feel the bond between them. He had never quite understood Margaret, but he knew she trusted him and he trusted her. She was right. Maybe his story was told, but that didn’t mean there were no more stories or that he couldn’t still play a prominent role.
“Very well, I will attempt to return you to where I first contacted you. You sounded like I had interrupted you.”
“I was already awake.”
“I see. Perhaps there is meaning in that as well.”
“They landed on my roof.”
She smiled mischievously. “You both hold a similar potential. It is not impossible that you called one another.”
“Well, I’m glad I could help. Still, I wonder, will there be another fool then?”
“Perhaps. Or perhaps this is simply a shared tale, one with many heroes.”
“A chance to build more bonds.”
“I am moving your body itself. Lay down.”
“On the sofa or…?”
Souji did as he was told.
“Now close your eyes.”
He closed his eyes.
“Until we meet again.” Something warm and soft touched his lips. Not his first kiss from Margaret, but enough to make him snap his eyes open.
The plain ceiling of his room loomed overhead.