Mistletoe 01: Lingering Pain

Mistletoe 01: Lingering Pain

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

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

Featured Image is from Pixiv.

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


 

P5_portrait_of_the_Protagonist_with_glasses
Portrait of the Protagonist

 

A figure in red and white ran ahead of him through the hazy streets.  He ran desperately behind, but could never quite get a good look at the one ahead of him.  

The figure rounded a corner.  He followed close behind, only to nearly slam his face into a wooden fence. 

Something moved behind him.  He turned.

An arrow with a green vine wrapped around it flew for his chest.  No chance to dodge.  

It pierced his chest, pinning him to fence.  He stared down at it, desperately gasping for breath.

“Ar…sene,” he whispered.  Maybe, if he could summon a Persona…

The vine began to grow, oval leaves quickly covering his vision.  Something entered his mouth, some sort of smooth berry.  He bit down on it, trying to stop the growth.  A bitter taste spread over his tongue, numbing him.  

The plant continued to grow.

Unable to utter a coherent sound, he screamed.

Something sharp slashed across his face.

Akira Kurusu opened his eyes.  His breath came out in ragged gasps, and he could feel blood on his cheek.

A cat’s face peered over his.  “Thank goodness you woke up.”

Akira touched his bleeding cheek.

“Sorry about that, but you needed to wake up.  I’m surprised your own screaming didn’t do it.”

A knock sounded at the door.  “Mr. Kurusu, is everything all right in there?”

Akira sat up, staring at the cat, Morgana.  “Screaming?”

Morgana nodded.

Another knock at the door.

He should probably handle that.

Akira rolled out of bed.  Sharp pangs ran through his chest, but otherwise he seemed fine.  Fine enough to move up to the door of his tiny apartment at least.

He pressed the speaker button.  “Sorry about that.  Just a nightmare.”

“Alright.  As long as there’s nothing wrong.”

“No, my apologies.”

He heard footsteps as his neighbor walked away.

Akira turned around.  Morgana sat on his bed, watching him closely.  

It hurt to breathe.  Then again, he’d been panicking just a moment ago.

“Akira.”

Here it came.

“You haven’t had a good night’s sleep for over a week.”

Akira tried to mutter something about finals, but Morgana’s tail swish told him how well that would work.  Instead, he moved over to the bed to sit down.  Maybe telling Morgana would help.

“It’s variations of the same dream,” he explained.

“Getting worse?”

Akira nodded.  “I’m always chasing someone.”

“Do you know who?”

Akira stared into Morgana’s face to gauge his reactions.  “Sometimes he’s easy to spot.  Tonight, for example, he wore bright white with red.  Glint of gold too.”

Morgana twitched.

“Two nights ago, he wore dark clothes that covered almost his entire body.”  His chest hurt, and from more than the screaming.  It felt like it was constricting around him, his heart trying to jump up his throat.

“Akechi,” Morgana whispered in disbelief.  

Akira tried to simply nod quietly, but hearing the name made his constricted heart pop from the pressure.  The harsh sound of a pair of gunshots pounded in his head.

He laid his head down in his hands.  

“Akira?”

He could understand Morgana’s confusion.  It had been over two years, and he’d rarely given Akechi’s death much thought.  Now and then, he and the party would have a moment of remembrance.  They’d even found Akechi’s mother’s grave, to let her know what had happened to her son.

The only nightmares he’d ever had over Akechi’s death had involved thoughts of if they could have saved him, but they weren’t exactly guilt ridden either, and they didn’t make him scream like this had.

They didn’t make him cry.  

“It felt real,” he whispered.  He was beginning to feel a little better, like the tears were making room in his chest for his heart.

“What happened in it?  What made you scream?”

Akira took a steadying breath.  “I got shot with an arrow.”

“Ehh?”

“It pinned me to a fence and then…there was a vine around it, and it grew.”

“What kind of vine?”

“I’m not sure.  It had bright green leaves.  Round ones, and some sort of berry.”

“Maybe if we find out what it was, we can figure out why you’re having these dreams,” Morgana offered.

Akira nodded.  Talking to Morgana helped make him feel in control again.

“Now, why don’t we go back to sleep?  You do have a final tomorrow.”

Even distressed, Akira managed a small smile.  Count on Morgana to make sure he got plenty of sleep.

 


 

“Excuse me, Professor, may I speak with you?”

Akira’s psychology professor turned to him.  The man had a hawk’s face, complete with dark eyes.  He even looked at students like they were prey.  

“What is it, Mr. Kurusu?”

“Do you have any suggestions on dream interpretation?”

Akira knew it was a long-shot.  One semester had been enough to teach him that this professor was more a chemicals and lab rats sort of man.  Still, it seemed wise to start with such an easily available source.  What was college for, after all?

“Are you actually stressing about your finals, Mr. Kurusu?”

Yes, but only because of nightmares keeping him from a good night’s sleep.  Akira doubted even a delve into Mementos could have made him as sleepy as his current dreams.

“Professor, these dreams don’t involve finals.”

The professor sighed.  “I see.  My approach would be lucid dreaming to remove myself from the nightmare.  If there’s an obvious symbol, I’d conduct an internet search for its various meanings.”

Akira nodded.  Logical enough.  He hadn’t really thought of trying to control his dream, but a change in how he approached it would likely do wonders.

“I take if you find this advice helpful?”

“Yes, sir.”  Akira bowed.  “Thank you very much.”

“Very well, now, if you’ll excuse me,” he held up the stack of finals, “I have some grading to complete.”

Akira offered another quick bow before moving out of his professor’s way.  He then buttoned up his coat, put on his gloves, and headed for the exit nearest one of the school heat vents.

Sure enough, Morgana had perched himself on top of an old plastic chair over the vent.  Akira had moved the chair there with the first frost, and had consistently found Morgana there ever since.

The black and white cat wore a small blue scarf, secured with the help of his collar, and even had snow booties on.  Akira wore a matching scarf.

“Anything helpful?”

Akira shrugged, opening up his school bag so Morgana could curl up inside.  “Some good advice, but no information.”

“Maybe the Master would know?” Morgana offered.  “He seems to have a thing for plants.”

Akira nodded, zipping the bag partway to hold in heat.  His current employer, a man about Sojiro’s age, had insisted on turning the café into something of a paradise for the winter months.  The number of green plants in that café made it feel like spring or summer.  

“It will be crowded today,” Akira reminded Morgana, slinging the bag over his shoulder.

“I know, I know.  No jumping on the tables or bar.”

“And…?”

“And no picking the customers’ pockets.  Jeesh, Akira, steal one cellphone charm and you treat me like a hardened criminal.”

“She got it from her boyfriend.”

“Whom you hate,” Morgana countered.

Akira just shook his head.  They had argued over the charm theft for two months now, and Morgana still refused to apologize.  Akira had managed to return the item at least, claiming it must have fallen off in the café, but he wished Morgana would offer up an apology, or at least a promise not to do it again.

He wandered through the snow.  Even for Hokkaido there had been an obscene quantity of snow this year, and none of it had melted.  Fresh flurries kept the world a pristine white.  

Akira didn’t much like the subdued landscape.  The world felt muted like this.  Still.  Even in the city, it was like snow stopped the world.

At least the café was always lively.  Akira walked in just as a student rushed out with a practical bucket of coffee.    Inside, a small line waited to order, while several others waited for pick up.  Every table was packed with cramming students.  He suspected many of them had made it the rest of the semester partying, only to realize that failing this final meant failing the class.

“Akira,” Master called from the counter, “bring out some fresh beans when you go change.”

With a nod, Akira headed for the back room.  There, he changed into his work uniform.  This particular café emphasized feeling fancy and relaxed.  The uniform, a European butler costume, reflected that ideal.  Still, Akira had to admit, it worked well.  He could move around quite well, and he looked damn good doing it.  

Morgana hopped out of the bag while he was changing.

“I think I’ll stay back here for a while.”

Akira nodded, even as he corrected his bow tie in the mirror.  

“Don’t forget to ask about the plant in your dreams.”

“After things calm down.”

“Naturally.  Now, go steal those hearts, Joker.”

Akira sighed.  Morgana said that every day at work.  It had been cute at first, but then he’d realized that Morgana desperately wanted a girl around.  

Still, he’d be lying if he said it didn’t make him smile every time.

 


 

Darkness had fallen by the time things really calmed down.  A few regulars sipped their coffee quietly, but all the noise had died out.  The manager had watered the plants, and only an hour or so remained until closing time.

Morgana had come out at this point.  One of his favorite customers, and older gentleman who came every evening to read, had arrived.  The old man always came with a few cat treats, sometimes even a piece of fish, and absentmindedly stroked Morgana while he read.

Times like this, Morgana was definitely a cat.

“You feeling okay?” the manager asked suddenly.  He spoke quietly, and slid a cup of freshly brewed coffee along the bar.  “Your work wasn’t quite as efficient as normal.  You better not be getting sick.”

“No, I’m not sick.”  Akira gratefully took the cup.  He’d taken a careful look around the plants in the café, but none matched the one from his dream.  “Just not sleeping well.”

“Finals?”

“Not really,” Akira muttered.  “My psychology one went well today.”

“Good to hear.”

“It’s just…” he sighed, “bad dreams.”

The manager moved to the back room, pulling out a small box of decorations.  “Well then, maybe a bit of holiday decorating will help you brighten up.”

“Holiday decorating?”

“We’re European style, right?  So,” he pulled out a Santa hat, “we should decorate accordingly.”  He plopped the hat on Akira’s head.  “I’m thinking we should give you a Christmas uniform too.”

“Why?”

The man winked.  “I just like seeing the ladies swoon.”

Akira smiled.  He’d have been lying if he claimed not to appreciate the attention.  He’d seen more than one man eyeing him appreciatively as well, and more than a few jealous glares.  He enjoyed the responses his presence caused.  People saw him as attractive, and were drawn to his confidence.  

“Now, I’ll decorate the bar.”  The manager handed him a box of decorations.  “The lights should frame the windows and door.  The mistletoe needs to hang over the entrance on the inside.”  He winked.  “Don’t want anyone getting frostbite while they kiss.”

“Right.”  Akira had only a vague idea what mistletoe looked like, but he remembered it was a green plant with berries.  Berries.  He felt the bitter taste from the berry he’d bitten in his dream override the smooth bitterness of coffee.    

“Akira?” the manager whispered beside him.  

“Sorry, just remembering something I ate.”

“Nothing good, I take it.”

“No.  Sorry about that, boss.”

Akira could see Morgana’s concerned look from over where he was shamelessly receiving a belly scratch.  Akira nodded slightly in the cat’s direction, hoping that conveyed that it had to do with his dream.  

With that he slipped on his coat and headed outside to put the lights up.  It turned out just to be a couple of small strings of sparkling white lights.  The manager clearly wrapped them up carefully.  Between that and Akira’s proficiency for this sort of thing, he hung up the lights quickly and efficiently.  

Good thing too.  The wind had picked up considerably since he had arrived to work.  Nothing quite like gloppy snow ramming into your face to make for a pleasant evening.  

He pulled the mistletoe out of the box.  Oval leaves and white berries.

This was it.  This was the plant from his dream.  

“Manager?”

“Yeah?”

“What are the meanings of mistletoe?”

He pulled the stool out, so he could hang the plant over the door frame.

“We hang it over the door to encourage lovers to kiss, and it’s often a sign of affection.”

“Anything else?”

“In more traditional languages, it can symbolize surmounting difficulties.”

“Surmounting difficulties,” Akira whispered.  He hopped off the stool to make sure he had hung the plant correctly.

“There’s more, but those are the most known meanings.  Many cultures think of it as a magical plant, and a symbol of fertility.  You could easily look up more online.  Why the sudden interest?”

Akira headed back to the bar.  The boss had decorated it with ivy and small lights.  

“It was in my dream.”

“You could probably look it up in a dream dictionary then.”

“Dream dictionary?”

“Yeah.  I’ve never bothered to look up mistletoe in one of them, but they help sort out my thoughts.”

“I’ll do that.”

“Hope it helps.  I want you energetic for Christmas.  Now, why don’t you and Morgana head home?”

 


 

“Clinging affection?” Morgana asked, staring incredulously at Akira.  

Who knew cats could look so disgusted?  

Akira carefully read the small webpage.  Clinging affection stood out, but there was also something about dependency on a host, and… killing a god?

He quickly typed Baldur and Mistletoe into his search bar.  A post about the death of Baldur showed up on top.  

“Do you really think that has to do with it?”

“I’m killed by an arrow of mistletoe,” Akira reminded him.  Sure enough, it looked like Loki had used such an implement to kill Baldur.  

Loki?  

Akira leaned back on his bed.  He’d assumed the arrow had to do with Robin Hood, but now that he thought about it…

“Akira, don’t get too caught up in dream logic,” Morgana warned.

“I know, but this means something.  You don’t go two years barely thinking about someone only to suddenly have them invade your dreams every night.”

“Is that true, Akira?  That you didn’t think about him much.  You never said anything, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”

Akira winced.  Akechi certainly rarely came to the forefront of his mind, but when he did it always hurt.  To Akira, to Joker, the failure to save Akechi, to save Crow, his teammate and friend, had stung more than he liked to admit.  He had felt a certain kinship with Akechi.  Even after everything that had happened, he had found it hard to hate his friend.  He still couldn’t hate him.  

“I need to know why.”

“I know.”

“Now that I have a lead, I’m going to try treating the dream like a Palace.  Maybe then I can catch him.”

“It’s all in your mind,” Morgana reminded him.  “Go get ‘em, Joker.”

Akira smiled at him, finally putting on his cocky grin from two years ago.  “I’m counting on it.”

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