03/30/2015

Promise to You

This time Souji arrived to the Nebula office just as the high schooler, Naoki Kashima, was walking out. Much to his surprise the boy stopped beside him.

“You should hurry,” he whispered.

“What?”

“There’s something there, waiting.” He looked directly at Souji. Then he smiled and said, more loudly, “I think he’s waiting for you. See ya.” With that the strange high schooler walked away.

Something waiting for him? Could it be the kid he’d seen last time? Souji turned to ask the teenager what he’d meant, but the younger man had already left the building.

“Souji Seta?” It was Doctor Kishitani.

“Oh, hello, sorry I’m a little late.”

“That’s alright,” the doctor responded, “my appointment with Mr. Kashima ran a little late anyway.”

“I see. Well, I’m here now.”

“As am I. Would you follow me?”

Souji gestured for the doctor to lead on. The man seemed pleased enough to see him, but something felt off.

The moment Souji walked into the main complex he felt ill. He couldn’t even properly explain it. He just felt sick. Maybe a bit like having something nasty on you, but this felt much more internal.

Doctor Kishitani led him into the room he’d waited in before. “If you wouldn’t mind sitting here awhile. I still haven’t gotten everything quite ready.”

“Because of the late appointment?”

“Yes. My sincerest apologies.” The man bowed deeply.

“It’s fine. I can wait here.”

“Thank you. Now, if I could just jot down your pulse. We might as well use this opportunity.”

Souji nodded. Doctor Kishitani took his pulse and left immediately after. He seemed almost giddy.

The boy from last time sat on the desk across the way, hands absentmindedly playing with the computer. “Hello.”

“Hi.” Souji felt just about ready to hurl.

“Did you find it?”

“Find what?”

The boy suddenly stood beside the desk. He gestured to the computer. “Better to reach than to fall.”

Slowly, Souji stood and headed towards the computer. A click of the mouse and it was on. Unfortunately, it wanted a password.

“EZH0es3*nteT,” the boy whispered slowly.

Souji typed it in. This was a terrible idea. The desktop was plain and crowded. His eyes naturally gravitated to one icon, a document marked PHAROS.

“Pharos,” the boy whispered, almost as running it over his tongue to feel it out.

Well, if it was on the desktop it had to be okay to click, so he did.

Password required.

“/HUd83SNie#aW”

“How do you know this?”

“Everytime. Every person. All seen through the glow of the lighthouse.”

“You want me to do this. Why?”

“/HUd83SNie#aW”

Should he really do this?

The boy looked at him out the side of his eyes. “/HUd83SNie#aW”

This time, Souji typed in the password.

The document opened. Check the contents. A section for ongoing notes at the bottom. Souji scrolled down. It looked like names.

“Naoki Kashima,” Souji whispered. His name had been crossed out, but the notes remained. They were even rather long.

“Further,” the boy pushed.

Souji continued to scroll. Sure enough, his name wasn’t much further down. He headed down to the most recent notes and read aloud:

“Subject shows strong signs of being a persona user…more so than we’ve seen in previous study. This opportunity cannot be allowed to pass. We must resume and attempt to sever the persona.”

Souji slowed as he read, just about choking on the final words. Concerned, he moved the document up to the stated goals.

“Project Pharos seeks to bring decision back to humanity via the eradication of obstructions. The worst of these obstructions being persona users and of those Minato Arisato who takes away our choice.’

He looked at the boy. “Who are you?”

A knock on the door. Souji just about punched the monitor off. He leapt back just as the door opened.

“My apologies for keeping you waiting.”

“Yeah. That took a while.” Souji’s voice shook slightly.

“Are you all right?”

“I’m fine.”

“Good. Will you come with me now?”

Souji nodded. Maybe he could get out of this cleanly. He just needed time to think. Then, Doctor Kishitani headed for the computer.

Souji headed by the door to wait. Hopefully for nothing, but he had a bad feeling about this. Sure enough, Doctor Kishitani’s face screwed up a bit when he turned on the monitor. He looked over at Souji.

Crap. That probably meant it hadn’t had time to turn off. How obvious could he have been?

Doctor Kishitani stood straight. “You really shouldn’t look at other’s medical records.” He pulled out a phone.

Souji bolted.

The call for security sounded behind him.

Maybe running hadn’t been the best idea, but it was definitely too late now. He slammed open one of the hallway doors.

Or not. A room greeted him. A moment later he heard footsteps behind him.

Try another door. This one led to a hallway.

“Stop!”

Souji glanced behind him. Three men in plain clothes charged after him. The lead one had a gun. Souji bolted through the next door he could reach.

What did a medical team need with armed guards? And what could he do?

The door handle twisted. Souji grabbed it and pulled. He was trapped and these men had guns. Pissing them off was a terrible idea, but catching them could be worse. He didn’t have time to contact anyone, no matter how long he could hold the door closed.

Eventually they’d just start shooting.

“Why are you running?”

It was the boy. He just stood on the other side of the small room perfectly calm. “Are you scared?”

“Of course I’m scared.”

“Why?”

“What do you mean why?”

“Why are you scared? Remember you are mortal. Remember you will die.” The child reached out a hand. “Reach out to your death.”

The pulling stopped. “Listen, kid, just come out. We aren’t going to hurt you.”

The child grinned.

“Why should I believe that?” Souji called. “What kind of security has guns?”

“It’s just in case of complications.”

“Like what?”

“What do you think?” the child whispered.

“Just don’t attack us and we won’t attack you.”

Souji could hear men backing up. Were they nervous? He took one hand and checked his phone. No signal. Well, at least he could fully knock out that option.

“Souji, please come out of there.” Doctor Kishitani. “I’m sure this is all a misunderstanding.”

The child let out little laugh on vaguely covered in a fake cough.

“Then just tell me what’s going on. There’s always a payoff. What’s yours?”

“We are simply attempting to improve our understanding.”

“To what?”

“Better humanity of course.”

“That sounds familiar,” the child whispered.

Souji ignored him. “What about Minato Arisato then? What do you want with him? What do you want with me?”

“You are a tool, a valuable tool, to saving us all.”

“Trap.”

“A lure,” Doctor Kishitani whispered.

The door exploded, throwing Souji against the wall. He gasped for breath. Three men, guns ready, came into the room and surrounded him. Doctor Kishitani came in behind them.

“Now, just come with me.”

Souji forced himself to his feet. Everything hurt. His head rang. Izanagi trembled and changed. He couldn’t see it, but Souji could feel it. An arrogant little girl, clever and innocent. Evil in her innocence.

“Reach out to your death,” Souji whispered.

“Just come with us.”

The boy hadn’t been talking about dying. He’d been talking about arcana.

The armed men shifted a bit. Yeah, he could get out of this.

“Sorry, but I have a request too.”

“You’ve already signed all the paperwork.”

“I know, but would you die for me?” A blonde girl in a blue dress appeared in front of him. She smiled even as he spoke and curtsied.

Cards, all holding spears, rained down from the sky.

Souji bull rushed through. The armed men fell back, trying desperately not to get hit by one of the cards. Souji honestly had no idea if it would kill them or not, but he wasn’t in a position to check.

He dove into the hallway and just ran. He’d take a door when he hit a dead end. Right now he needed the space.

Pursuit started behind him.

“Reach out,” the child whispered beside him for but an instant. “Reach out.”

Out. Out? Souji slammed open a door. Stairs right in front of him and no time to stop or slow, so he just jumped.

His hands extended out to keep him stable. Out. The child touched that hand, suddenly leaping beside him. Souji could feel Alice cheer within him.

He could see Aigis crying.

A hand pressed against his. The teenager with blue eyes, the one from the rooftop and the station, the one who was broken, the one who had been Arisato, now leapt beside him, hands pressed together.

Alice became Izanagi, almost as though she’d been drained away. The ferocity of the blue eyes lessened.

They landed together. Right foot to right foot and left to left. Gunshots sounded behind them.

The being who had been Arisato spun around. Souji turned just in time to see the row of coffins defending him.

The armed men stopped on the stairs, gaping. Doctor Kishitani came up right behind them, looking equally dumbfounded.

The katana slid from its sheathe and cut through the air again, and again, and again. Blood erupted from the three men in front and they fell back, howling in pain.

The being who had once been Arisato turned once more, grabbed Souji’s hand, and ran. The poor man didn’t even have time to argue the point.

They passed by several doors, burst into the waiting room (which was occupied) and charged out the doors.

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