Mistletoe 04: Lingering Hatred

Mistletoe 04: Lingering Hatred

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

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

Example: featured image is from Pixiv.

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I hate him.”

“Then let him go.”

“I can’t.”

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

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

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

“They’re my friends,” Joker corrected.  

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

Joker looked away.  

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

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

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

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

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

“And be alone?”

“Better than imprisoning others.”

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

“There’s a better way.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How dare you,” the Shadow hissed.  

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

Another rope came undone.  

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

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

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

Morgana leapt at it with his scimitar.

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

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

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

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

With a sudden spin it lunged for Joker.  

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

Joker cross his dagger in an attempt to guard.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We have to get rid of the cognitions.”

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

Akechi was right behind him.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Runes ran along the blade.  

The Shadow charged the shifting Persona.  

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

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

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

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

Loki raised Laevatein high.  

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

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

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

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

Joker looked to Goro.  “Come with me?”

He received a slight nod in response.

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

“Now what?” Joker asked his Shadow.

“That’s up to you.”

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

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

“This is real.”

“Yes.”

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

“That’s my understanding.”

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

“You’ve been inside me a long time.”

The Shadow nodded.

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

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

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

Joker smiled slightly, but otherwise ignored him.  

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

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

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

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

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

Joker reached out, taking the mask offered to him.  

The area around them began to shake.

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

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

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

“I’ll bet.”

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

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

Mistletoe 03: Lingering Concern

Mistletoe 03: Lingering Concern

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

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

Example: featured image is from Pixiv.

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


Akira lay on his bed, Morgana curled up beside his head.  

“You really think this will work?”

“It should,” Akira replied.  He’d gone over Lavenza’s information with Morgana and they had agreed to try it the next day.  Akira had gotten the day off from a rather distressed, but understanding, boss and he didn’t have any more finals to worry about.

“Want to message the others?” Morgana asked.

Akira held up his phone.  They’d been debating this since deciding to go in.  Sure, his friends couldn’t just hop up to Hokkaido, but shouldn’t he at least tell them?  

“I don’t know what to say.”

“The truth?” Morgana suggested.

Akira gingerly typed on his phone.  “Sorry this is sudden.  I think I have a lead on,”  On what?

“Go on,” Morgana urged him.  “This can’t be the scariest thing you’ve ever done.”

“I think I have a lead on a Palace.  I even have a thought on how to get in.  Trying it with Morgana.  Plan to text again this evening.”  He lay down the phone.

“I guess it will work,” Morgana grumbled.  

“I trust you,” Akira whispered.  He turned his head to look his feline friend in the eyes.  “I trust you to see me through this.”

“Merow.  Well, I am the best.”

“It’s scary how good you are.”

Morgana buried his face in Akira’s shoulder.  “Let’s just get this over with.”  

Akira closed his eyes.  “Aresne,” he whispered, “guide me.”  

He could feel the Persona stir within him, but rather than try to bring it out, he encouraged it to dive deeper.  He needed to follow it.  

Something soft touched his hand.  Akira glanced over to see Morgana, actual anthropomorphic Phantom Thief Morgana, beside him.

“We got this, Joker.”

Akira nodded.  He then took the chance to look around.  They were falling in a sea of stars.  No, not stars.  The lights around them were glowing spheres.  Each one held something, but he couldn’t make out details.  

Morgana shouted, “Incoming!”

Looking down, Akira realized they were plummeting towards one of these spheres.  It drew closer and closer, not much larger than a human.  Inside…

“What is this?” Akira whispered.  Inside the sphere was him.  

They dove into the sphere with a great splash.  Instead of the bubbles Akira expected to see, white feathers surrounded them.  

And beneath them was him.  His Self.  All of who he was completely exposed.  

They hit into it hard.  Morgana and Akira groaned, lifting themselves up from the pavement.  

“We’re in Tokyo?”

Akira nodded, gingerly rubbing his head.  He didn’t feel any blood or obvious lumps.  Better yet, he did feel his mask and gloves.  

“Let’s go find your treasure, Joker.”

Joker nodded just before running off.  He knew these streets, and he knew they had to get to Leblanc.  It didn’t really surprise him that it represented his Palace.  After all, it had been the hideout for the leader of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts for almost a year.  

A great bolt of lightning crashed down from the sky.  Joker rolled, still getting hit but managing to rise back to his feet quickly.

Morgana, on the other hand, went flying.  He crashed into a building wall and lay there, dazed.  

Joker glanced up to the rooftop.

“Skull?”

Skull, or at least a representation of him, jumped down.  He tapped a wooden paddle against his leg.

“Yo, Joker, good of ya to drop in.”  He held out the paddle.  “I’m  supposed to escort you in.”  He looked over to Morgana.  “Alone.”

With that he reached for his mask.  

Joker leapt forward, no hesitation in his movements.  This had to be a cognitive version of Skull.  For all Skull and Morgana fought, there was no way Skull would ever harm his friend so intentionally.

Skull jumped back, narrowly avoiding Joker’s knives.    He pulled off his mask, a blacked out version of Captain Kidd appearing in the air between them.  

Joker kept moving, narrowly avoiding the lightning bolts.  

He managed to get close again for a series of furious attacks.  He emphasized Skull’s injured side, forcing him to put his weight on his gimp leg.  

Skull swung at him with the paddle.  Joker ducked down.  The paddle barely crossed over his head, brushing against his hair as it went.  

The swing finally put too much weight on the injured leg and Skull stumbled.  

Joker lunged forward, driving him to the ground.  He had a knife at the cognitive Skull’s throat before he could recover.  Joker’s other knife cut into his opponent’s weapon arm.  

“Alright, alright, I get it.  I lose.  So get rid of me.  I’m useless now, right?”

“Joker?” Morgana called.  

He registered the sound, but chose not to turn his attention away from Skull.  The mask had reappeared, giving Skull’s eyes a sense of endless black depth.  

“Well?” Skull pressed.  He grinned.  “Come on, get rid of me.”

Joker pressed the knife closer.  

“I’m just a cognition.  A poor copy of the original.”

“Don’t say that.”

Skull laughed.  “You really are him.  Such a pack rat.”

Morgana placed a paw on Joker’s hand.  “Joker, this isn’t really Skull.”

“I know.”

Skull shouted, “Come on, let me go.”  He lurched forward.

Black blood splattered everywhere, the cognitive Skull’s throat sliced wide.  Joker just stared, still sitting on Skull’s chest as the body convulsed.  

Morgana backed away.  “Wha-?”

“Does he really think that will work?” a female voice inquired from behind them.  

“Lady Ann!”

Joker forced himself to turn his head from the grinning mockery of his friend.  Behind them stood Panther.  Queen and Fox stood beside her, shaking their heads sadly.  

“Hardly an elegant end,” Fox replied.

Queen placed her hand on her face in exasperation.  “He should have waited for us.  Now, he’s bound for a world of hurt.”

Slowly, Joker rose to his feet.  He faced them.  “More cognitions?”

Morgana pulled out his sling.  “They’re just more shadows, in the end.”

Panther held up her hands.  “We aren’t supposed to fight you.”

“Our job is to escort you to the Master,” Fox explained.  

“We don’t have to fight if you come peacefully,” Queen added.

Joker got back into a combat stance.  “I go on my own terms.”

“Really?” asked Morgana.

Surprised, Joker turned to him.  

One Morgana stood over the Morgana holding the slingshot.  

“You think you’d be sneakier.  I mean, you’re supposed to be our boss, right?”

Joker sheathed his knives.  “Let me carry Morgana.”

Fox chuckled.  

“Fox,” Panther snapped.

Queen shook her head, but Joker could see her smile too.  “Of course.  We wouldn’t expect you to let him go.”

Cognitive Morgana moved over to the side so he could lift the real one up.  “I’ll follow you.”

Panther and Fox turned to lead the way.  Queen went in step with him.  

“You really can’t summon your Persona, can you?”

“Why do you say that?”

“You could easily defeat us if you had your full power,” she reasoned.  “The boss thought you might be limited, but Skull hoped otherwise.”

“Why did he kill himself?”

“Freedom,” Queen whispered.  

They stopped in front of Leblanc.  

“He wants to see you himself,” Queen explained.  She stepped away.  “You know where he is.”  

Joker held Morgana close.  “And you?”

“Our job is to make sure you don’t escape,” Fox replied.

“Let us have a boring night,” Panther added.  

Cognitive Morgana looked down, kicking the pavement.  “Yeah.”

“Let me ask one question.”  Joker looked directly at Queen.  “Is Akechi here?”

“What do you think?” Panther responded.  

“Only you can answer that,” Queen added.  She gestured for the door.

With a deep sigh, Joker walked into Leblanc.

It looked more similar to the real thing than he expected.  Instead of booths, arcade machines lined the wall, but the bar and kitchen area seemed unchanged.  He could even smell the curry.

A cognitive Sojiro poured freshly brewed coffee into a mug.  “You better give it your best, you hear?”  He slid it along the bar.

Joker shifted Morgana to one arm so he could accept the coffee.  “I will.”

The cognition smiled and gestured towards the stairs.  “Best not to leave yourself waiting.”

With a nod, Joker headed up the stairs.

Previous | Next

Mistletoe 02: Lingering Question

Mistletoe 02: Lingering Question

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

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

Example: featured image is from Pixiv.

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


 

This is my mind.  I’m in control.  

Akira opened his eyes once more to the dim streets of Tokyo.  This time though, he could feel the weight of a coat hanging behind him, gloves wrapped tightly around his hands, and a mask cool against his face.  

He touched it, assuring himself that this was, indeed, the correct mask.  

He’d entered his dream as Joker, and he would not be caught by surprise again.  

His mind.  His rules.  

The figure in red and white, Goro Akechi, stood a block down from him.  His face shone clearer than ever before.  Akira could see damage on Akechi’s mask.  The most obvious, the missing crow nose.  

“Crow,” he called out.

Akechi turned and fled.  Joker followed.  

His mind.  His rules.  His Tokyo.  The streets around him shifted, becoming increasingly more familiar.  

Akechi turned a corner.  Joker turned the one before.  The chase moved to a parallel alley.  

Joker leapt over trash bins and parked cars.  They were near Leblanc now.  His zone.  

“My turn to catch you,” he muttered.

Akechi spun to face him.  Joker leapt.

A black and white striped Persona with a large red sword appeared between them.  

Joker fell back, cursing, “Loki.”

Sure enough, when he looked at Akechi now, the man’s outfit had entirely changed.  The mask still clearly showed damage, but his entire outfit had turned dark.  

Looking at it now, it reminded Joker of a strait jacket.  

“Akechi…”

“Kurusu, I need…”

Loki stayed between them, perched on its sword.  

“I found out why it happened,” Joker shouted.  “I found out who was using us for their sick game.”

“A game?  Heh, ha, ha, ha,” Akechi burst into psychotic laughter.  “You don’t get it at all, do you?”

A powerful gale whipped around them.  

“What do you mean?”

“Isn’t it obvious?  The person using it all as a game, all as an escape, is you.”

Akira’s footing slipped, and he slammed against the wall of Leblanc.  

Akechi’s face calmed, easily visible through the holes in the mask, “And I did too.  I used you as an escape.”

“What do you mean?” Akira growled, rising back to his feet.  

“I was caught, trapped.”  He lifted a hand to point at Joker.  “By you.”

What?  Behind him, he could hear movement inside of Leblanc.  He recognized Anne’s voice, and Futaba’s, and Makoto’s, and…everyone.  The Phantom Thieves were inside Leblanc, but they didn’t sound right.  Worn out.  

“Turn around,” Akechi instructed.

Unable to resist his curiosity, Joker turned.  He even took a few steps back, closer to Akechi, to better take in the sight of Leblanc.  

The upstairs window opened.  

He could hear the sound of arcade machines and the rough shuffling of mahjong tiles.  A familiar face smiled at him from the window.  

Bright yellow eyes stared into his.  

His Phantom Thief outfit vanished around him as he fell back.  

His Shadow stepped out of the window.  

Akira felt a hand on his shoulder.  He looked back to see the black and purple clad Akechi behind him.  

“You have to wake up now,” he instructed, “before he catches you.”

“What is this?”

Akechi offered him a small smile before hauling him to his feet.  “Just run, before you’re added to his collection.”

His Shadow landed just a little out of reach from them.  

“Knights shouldn’t betray their king, Crow.”

Was that really his voice?  It sounded distorted, cruelty warping the tone.

Akechi’s outfit reverted to the one he had worn with the Phantom Thieves.  He pushed Akira behind him.

“Run,” he hissed.  

The Shadow grinned, mouth curling upwards to a hideous level.  “You know he won’t.”  

Robin Hood surrounded Akechi.  “Hamaon,” he whispered.  

Blinding light surrounded Akira.  He heard his Shadow shout something.  Chains erupted around them, surrounding Akechi.

“Wake up!”

Akira sat bolt upright in his bed, adrenaline racing through his system.  

“Morgana?” he shouted.  Where was Morgana?  Was he really back?

“I’m here.”  

Akira turned to see Morgana sitting on his desk.  

“You started kicking,” the cat explained.

“I caught him.”

“And?”

“And?”  Akira looked at his hands.  “Can I have a palace?”

“Did you dream it?”

Akira looked back at the desk.  “Morgana,” he pressed.

“Probably.  Just because we got rid of the entrance doesn’t mean people’s hearts changed.”  He jumped on the bed.  “I don’t think it’s normal for a Persona user to have one though.  And the Nav’s gone, so I don’t know how we’d access it.”

“I saw my Shadow.”

“A dream of your negative self,” Morgana explained.  “You’re probably just seeing it as a Palace because that’s your context for Shadows.”

“Akechi said he had escaped, but that I…my Shadow, caught him.”  Akira let out a deep breath.  “I think he’s still alive.”

“Akira, it’s been two years.”  

Akira detected a hint of pity in Morgana’s voice.  Even in his closest confidant thought he was delusional.  

“I know that.  I know it’s probably all a dream.  But, what if it isn’t?”  He started at Morgana.  “What if he really is alive?  What if my distorted desires are hurting him?”

Morgana let out an approving meow.  “Well, when you put it that way, it does sound like a case.”

Akira gave Morgana a sincere smile.  That was the friend he remembered.

“Now the question is, how do we proceed?  Even if there is a Palace,” Morgana reminded him, “we have no way in.”

Akira stood, moving over to his wallet.  He gently ripped out some stitching along the outside edge.  He had sewn the concealed pocket himself, and it took longer to undo than untangling lights.  

“I don’t know the answers,” he muttered, “but I do know who to ask.”  He pulled out a small blue key.

Morgana let out an approving ho-ho.   

 


 

P5_Lavenza
Lavenza

Akira found himself in a small room draped in blue.  Two comfortable chairs sat across from one another.  One of those chairs, a deep blue velvet, was already occupied by a young girl in almost identical blue.  

She gestured for him to sit in the crimson chair across from her.  

“Welcome to the Velvet Room once more,” she greeted.  “I’m afraid, that with your contract complete, I can’t let you into the velvet room at large, but my Master has agreed to a discussion.  He feels it unfair to you, that you were never given proper instruction.  And so bids me offer any advice you may need.”

Akira took his seat.  “Thank you, Lavenza.”

He could have sworn she saw a bit of red on her face.  “It is the least I could do.  Now, ask your questions.  I will answer as best I can to guide you.”

“Are there still Palaces?”

“Not as you know them, but in function, yes.”

“Not as I know them?”

“The Sea of Souls, the Collective Subconscious, a place between dream and reality,” she gestured around them.  “Whatever you call it, it does not simply cease to exist.  Rather, it is shaped by those who dwell within it.”

“Is it still possible to enter?”

She smiled gently.  “You’re here, aren’t you?”

“On accident?” he clarified.

“It happens all the time.”

Akira leaned back.  So, jumping into your own palace in a dream wasn’t just possible, but perfectly plausible.

He took a deep breath.  “Is Goro Akechi still alive?”

She spread out her hands.  “I am afraid I do not have the answer to that inquiry.”

“He said he used me as an escape.  Does he mean he went into my subconscious?”

“Not impossible,” she admitted.  

“Do I have a Palace?”

“Unlikely, but not impossible.”

“I think I saw my Shadow.”

Lavenza closed her eyes.  “There will always be shadows, but if you truly possess a Shadow…”  She opened her eyes once more.  “Can you still summon your Persona?  Try it.”

Akira took a deep breath.  “Arsene,” he whispered.  Immediately, he felt the power flow through him, the warm flame engulf his face.  

A piece moved across a Shogi board.

The power fizzled out.

“You have a Shadow,” she clarified.

“That’s how you know?”

She nodded.  “It’s very rare for a Persona user to maintain their abilities while they have a Shadow.  Part of why such a Shadow can form is simply that you no longer require the sense of self for Persona summoning.  Perhaps, you are simply bothered by what you witnessed, but given that you could proceed partway in the summoning, it is more likely that you simply lack the strength.  Fundamentally, you currently lack an important piece of your Self.”

“How do I get it back?”

“You accept your Shadow.  You admit that it is part of you, but not all of you, and you accept that piece.”

Akira had a bad feeling about this.  “I have to confront it directly, don’t I?”

She nodded somberly.  

“Is there some way to bring my friends?”

“Are you sure you want them there?”

Akira paused.  He had just thought about needing their help, and he trusted them completely for that, but was he really okay with them seeing his Shadow?

No, but he trusted them, and if it meant saving someone’s life, then it was worth it.  “I want at least Morgana to back me up.  And if I need more help, I know where to get it.”

Lavenza smiled.  “It is good to see that your Shadow has not dimmed your faith in your friends.”  She stood.  “It would prove difficult to enter someone else’s Palace, but your own mind should prove doable and, as long as you truly desire it, then others may enter with you.”

“How?”

“When humans dreams, they inherently communicate with their subconscious.  Summoning a Persona isn’t really any different.  You reach into your Self and pull forth the mask.  This time, you must not bring it forth, but rather follow it down.  I cannot guarantee you will appear near your Palace, but you will appear in your own mind.  From there, finding it shouldn’t prove difficult.”

“And bringing in others?”

“If they are truly bonded with you, as I know Morgana is, then physical contact is all it will require.  If you desire his presence, and he desires to aid you, then you will appear together.”

“Will my body remain in the physical world?”

“I am not sure,” she admitted.  

“I’ll do it in my room then.”

She smiled at him.  “A wise plan.  I wish you well in your endeavor, but I am afraid information is all I can supply at this juncture.”

Akira stood.  “I understand, and thank you.”

“I do wish things had gone differently.”

“Yeah,” Akira muttered.  He did too.  If they could have somehow saved Akechi, how different might things have been?  

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