Mistletoe Epilogue: Lingering Love

Mistletoe Epilogue: Lingering Love

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 opened his eyes slowly, scared to find out it was all just a dream.  Morgana snuggled up against his face.  

No.  

He sat up, desperately looking around the room.  “Goro?”

Morgana stirred beside him.  

Akira stood up.  “Goro?”

The sound of running water.  He rushed for the bathroom.  

There stood Goro, in the same uniform he’d worn two years ago, rinsing his face.  

Akira wrapped him in a big hug.  

“Oof.”  Goro slammed into the sink under the force of the hug.  

Akira buried his face in the other man’s hair.  “You’re okay.”

“Heh.”  Goro placed a hand on Akira’s shoulder.  “I’ll never understand you.”

“That makes two of us,” Morgana added from just outside the small bathroom.

Akira just held him tighter.  “I don’t ever want to let you go.”

“Worried I’ll go off the deep end again?”

“Worried you won’t come back,” Akira corrected.  

“I’ve done terrible things, you know.”

“You were drowning.”  Akira rested his head on Goro’s opposite shoulder.  “I won’t let you drown again.”

Goro shook his head.  “You’re lying.”

Akira slowly spun him around so they could face each other.  “No.”  He smiled.  “Something about you has always made me speak my mind.”  He paused.  

“You make me a better person.  Let me do the same for you.”

“You already did.  When I was with the Phantom Thieves, I actually felt like a hero.  I felt like who I had always wanted to be.”

“Then be that again.”

Goro looked away.  “It was never the real me.”

“There’s more than one real you.”  Akira lifted Goro’s head to face him.  “That mask is a part of you.  A very real part of you.  Robin Hood is no less you than Loki.  You don’t have to be selfish.”

“You don’t have to be altruistic.”

Akira shook his head.  “I’m not.  Right now,” he put both hands around Goro’s face, “I am being very selfish.”

He leaned in, bring Goro’s face down slightly, for a kiss.  Just a simple peck, he’d never actually kissed another guy, but it had the desired effect.  

Goro stared at him.  

“Why don’t I go look up train tickets before I cough up a hairball?” Morgana offered right before quickly scampering away.  

“My Shadow was right,” Akira admitted.  “I am a very greedy person.”

Goro stared a moment.  Then a smile cracked across his face.  Then, he laughed.  

“I always knew you were crazy.”

“How so?”

“I really did mean to kill you, both times.”

Akira shrugged.  “Guess I hold onto people more than grudges.”

“I shot you in the head.”

“No, you shot a cognition of me in the head.”

“Which I thought was you,” Goro reminded him.

“Minor detail.”

“Major detail.”

“You also sacrificed yourself so we could get away.”

“It was you or both of us.”

“We could have taken it on together.”

“Doubtful.”

“How’s a noon train on Wednesday sound?” Morgana called from by the computer.  

“Sounds good,” Akira shouted back.  

“You and me, right?”

“Morgana.”

The not cat let out a deep sigh. “Fine, two humans and a cat.”

“You’re taking me with you to Tokyo.”

“You shouldn’t have to hide.”

“I shouldn’t be alive.”

“So?”

Goro sighed.  “So, I could use some clean clothes.”

Now that he thought about it… Akira took a good look at Goro’s clothes.  They were torn and stained.  

“You got it.”

 


 

The café had calmed down with the end of finals, and the clientele had shifted.  Their decorations seemed to bring in couples at an alarming rate.  Akira made sure to give them all a warm smile.  

“Must be looking forward to seeing your friends in Tokyo,” Master grumbled.

“Sorry I took the time off so suddenly.”

“Well, at least you seem better.  I’ll be mad if you quit on me though.”

Akira smiled at him.  He’d already discussed the possibility that he might move back to Tokyo to his manager and, for all his grumbling, the old man seemed understanding enough.  

“Get this coffee to the reading lounge.”

With a nod, Akira brought the small cup to a woman cuddling beside on a man on the couch.  

“Here you are.”  He placed it gently on the coffee table in front of them.  “I hope you enjoy.”

“Thank you.”

He smiled warmly at them before moving back towards the bar.

The ringing bell from someone opening the door turned him right back around.

“Wel—“

There stood Goro Akechi in a slightly short winter coat.  He had unbuttoned it before walking in to reveal a red, black, and white sweater vest underneath.   The wind had wreaked havoc on his hair, and it seemed to have no idea which direction to go anymore.  

“He insisted on coming,” Morgana explained as he trotted into the café.  

The door closed behind them, but Goro didn’t move.  He just looked around nervously, like someone lost.  

“Welcome,” Akira greeted, moving closer.  “Can I help you?”

“Ah, yes, I…I just followed the cat here.  Thought it looked nice and warm.”

“We have some of the best coffee in Sapparo,” Akira assured him.  They stood just a couple of feet apart now.  “Alternatively, we serve some very nice tea.”

Goro smiled, moving his head down.  “You’re too natural at this, and in a butler outfit no less.”

“You think so?”

Goro looked back up.  “Definitely.”  His eyes darted upward then.  

“Is something wrong?”

“No, just wondering if you’d be willing to come closer.”

Akira took a couple of steps forward.  They were now within arm’s reach.

Goro pointed up to the mistletoe Akira had hung just a few days before.  “Pretty sure this means something.”

Akira blinked in surprise.  Goro hadn’t said a word about the kiss in the bathroom, leaving Akira to assume he had no interest.  Not surprisingly, really.  But, then why was he indicating the mistletoe.

Goro chuckled.  Then, he reached out and grabbed Akira by the collar of his shirt.  He pulled him in close.  Akira hopped closer in an attempt to stay standing.

Goro kissed him.  Akira’s eyes widened.  This wasn’t a cautious peck, but rather a heartfelt kiss.

They pulled back, Akira stuttering out a vague attempt to ask, “Why?”

“Well,” Goro innocently replied, “mistletoe is how Loki gets himself into trouble.  And you are definitely trouble.”

He leaned in again.  Akira offered no objections.  

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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.

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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?  

Previous |

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.”

Next

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 27

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 27

Shadow World

Raidou stared at the doppelganger before him.  “Who are you?”

“I told you.  I’m you. Or, in our case, you used to be me.”  He bounded off the large rock.  “There’s a whole spiel I’m supposed to make here about how you’re me, and I’m you, but honestly it seems pointless.  You’re happy a wandering zombie and I don’t want the job.”

He walked up to Raidou, holding out his hand.  “Akira Miyagawa.”

Raidou stared, breathing growing ragged.  Sure enough, that was his birth name.

“Seriously?”  Akira leaned forward, grabbing Raidou’s hand.  “I thought you came in prepared, all variables accounted for.”  He firmly shook the forcibly grabbed hand.  “But it shouldn’t be a problem, right?  You threw me away after all.”

Raidou just stared.  So this was his Shadow.

“Yep.”  Akira stepped back.  “That’d be me, Mr. Shadow.  Nice little home I got here, huh?  Nice and traditional.  Honestly, I hate it, but so do you.  Guess that’s part of the point.”

“You know what I’m thinking?”

“Not literally,” the Shadow admitted.  “I just know because I know how you think.  That I’m your shadow is the most likely conclusion given the situation, and you’re right.”

“What’s your goal?”

“My goal?”  Akira tilted his head oddly.  “That’s a good question.  I’ll admit a set of clashing desires, like instinct and logic.  I want to take your place.  I want you to accept me.  Just saying that makes me want to puke.  Actually, scratch that, it just takes thinking about it.  If I replaced you they’d make me be Raidou and bull on that.  But, if you accept me…I still have to do it.  Quite the conundrum we live.”

“You don’t want to kill me?”

“Ew.  I’m not killing myself.  You may be the failure version of me, but for some reason you’re the one in the real world and I’m stuck tied to you.  Who knows what happens to me if you die?  Ugh.  Does that mean I have to rely on you?  Maybe I should just lock you up.”

“Imprison me then?”

“I’d rather not,” Akira admitted.

“Why?”

“You’re me.  Imagine talking to you for the rest of eternity.”

“Point taken.”

“Right?  I’m terrible company, and you’re worse.  I have a horrible sense of humor, when I have one, and am fundamentally a power-hungry vengeful piece of shit.”

“Harsh.”

Akira shrugged.  “I’m not wrong.  At least I admit it though.  Wouldn’t it be nice to drop the whole Raidou gig and just go hunt down the idiot who murdered mom and dad?  I’m sure grandfather did it already, but I’d still like to know why.  Why were they killed?  And who was stupid enough to do it?  Come up with a pretty excuse about how I’m helping everyone, sure, but frankly if I could just do whatever the hell I want I’d be happier.”

“You’re…honest.”

He shrugged again.  “Probably comes with being a Shadow.  Odin knows you’re not honest, so I don’t get it from you.  You don’t even really want to be, but when it comes to me and you, oh yeah.  It takes a lot of self-awareness to be a Shadow.”

“Wordy too.”

“Well, yeah.  No one said I was born a mute.”  He looked away.  “Just sort of forced into one.  I’d talk more, but it just doesn’t seem worth it.  The world is filled with idiots after all.  They’re either too dumb to get it no matter what you say or so smart you don’t have to say anything.”

“Where am I then?”

“Well, I’d like to say you’re an idiot, but we both know I’m not.  In fact, I’m damn near genius, but no, you have to go throwing me away and for what?  You hate your job.”

“Fair enough.”

“See?  It’s the pits, and you know it.  But, if you try to pull out now you’ll get brutally murdered.  Not good for either of us and I have no delusions on the outcome.  Fuckin’ Kyouji’s a sniper.”

Raidou choked down a chuckle.  Getting ripped into was a new experience for him, but so far, extremely accurate.

“See?  I’m right, about everything.  Well, not everything, but life would get really boring really fast if I were.  Knowledge is great.  Knowing everything would suck.”

“What to do?”

“Good question.  I vote tea.”

Raidou started.  Not the answer he had expected.

“Honestly,” he stepped a little closer, “I can’t force you to leave.  You have to want it, and I think you’re too curious to want it.  Add to that the fact you can’t accept me since that would mean denying Raidou, but I’m so right you can’t get yourself to deny me either, we’re in a bit of a mess.  Given the situation,” he gestured towards a larger building, “we might as well have tea.”  He paused.  “I suppose getting drunk together would be an option too, but I’m not sure if that’s possible.”

“That’s okay.  I don’t want to hear a drunk version of me.”

“Ugh.  Right back at you.  Gross.  Anyway, pretty sure I can make up some awesome tea, if you’ll follow me?”

Raidou just shook his head in confusion.  This wasn’t exactly what he’d thought when Souji and Butterfly had described the concept of shadows to him, but he had to admit intrigue.

 


 

Akira hadn’t been kidding.  He made a good cup of tea.  Not as good as Miss Narumi’s, but still.  He used a nice green tea, with just a bit of sweetener and some milk.  It was really quite tasty, and nowhere near as sweet as cafes liked to make.

They sat on a veranda overlooking the courtyard.  Even as they’d sat there a small stream had begun to run through the area, circling the stone and allowing plants to grow.

“Does it always change like this?”

“Pretty much.  I think.”  Akira shrugged.  “Whatever the case, it suits me.”

“Peaceful of you.”

“I am relaxing right now.”

Raidou breathed in the air.  Strange how clean and beautiful it felt, even as he registered that it wasn’t quite right.  “Why a shrine?”

“Don’t you recognize it?  This is where we trained to become Raidou, along with that jerk and the coward.”

“Oh yeah.”

“And the pretty girl.”

“Never liked her much.”

“Yeah, but she wasn’t so bad, and she did take good care of us.”

“I guess.  Her advances though…”

“Yeah.  That was way too much.  Surprised I kept my cool through all of that.  I’m not just some breeder and I don’t like being treated like one either.”

Raidou smiled.  The current Geirin had approached him almost immediately about the prospect of a child.  Things were peaceful in her region after all.

“And then there’s the current Geirin,” Akira added.”  “It’s just gross.  I know she’s not really related to us, but no.”

“Weird how similar we are.”

“Be weirder if we weren’t.  And don’t lie to yourself, you’re taking some comfort in knowing that the you you threw away still exists.  Some of me’s still in there, just waiting to shine.”

“Shine, huh?  Sounds like a good way to get in trouble.”

“Maybe sometimes that’s what you need.”

“I’m not strong enough.”

“You could be.”

Both of them knew better than to continue the conversation past that point, so Akira just let Raidou keep his thoughts internal for a bit.  Besides, something had just entered his domain.  He focused in on that.  Two very powerful entities.  No, three, but two were closely linked.  He could feel the presence of something beyond him, something which simply existed on a different scale.

Should he send the weaker shadows after them?  Or should he simply let them arrive?  The concept of keeping Raidou around had occurred to him, but he could tell the shell wasn’t inside his domain, just the mind.  The thought of the shell being destroyed, and the mind with it, bothered him more than he liked to admit.  After all, he wasn’t exactly a separate being.

He ordered the shadows to simply watch.  Creep them out a little, but not attack.

“I think your new allies have arrived.”

“They’re fast.”

“Hmmm.  One of them has done this before and the other…”

“Thanatos?”

“Yes.”  Akira stood.  “Not sure I can resist testing my strength against this pair.”

“Do you really care that much?”

“Of course I do!  In my strength lies my freedom, my ultimate joy.  How could I not want to give it a go?”

“What if they win?”

“I’m in my domain,” Akira explained.  “Even if they win, I won’t be destroyed.  Besides, I know some fun tricks I’ve been looking forward to trying.”

“What if you win?”

“Good question.  I wonder if I could kill them.”

“They’re my responsibility.”

“And yet you became theirs.  Pathetic.”

“Akira.”

“Right, right.  I’m power-hungry and violent, not evil.  Barely.  Very barely.  Would you feel better if I invited them in?”

Raidou looked away.  The next layer of understanding in how surreal this really was had just stared to hit.  His shadow cared about what happened, and how he felt.

“Well?  You’ll have to be my captive, ew, gross.  Never mind.  Scratch that.  You’re me and I sure as hell never want to play captive.”

“Hmph.”

“What?”

“Sorry.  It’s just weird.  Shadows are supposed to be dangerous for the people who birth them, right?”

“You still have my face.  And my basic mannerisms.  Upsetting you might be fun, but I don’t really want to put you in a situation I refuse to see myself in.”

“Then I’ll watch.”  Raidou sipped his tea.  Curious to see how this goes.  Just, don’t seriously hurt them.”

“Yeah, yeah, we’ll set it up like some of kind of stupid duel if it’ll make you happy.”

“Thank you.”

“Ridiculous.”  Akira waved his arms out wide.  A circle in the stones, completely empty on the inside.  Two of the buildings separated, creating a clear path.  Along that path stood shadows, of various forms, who then spread out along the edge of the circle.   “Nice turnout.”

“They are your minions.”

“Yep.  I think some of them are bits of me, even, but I’m not sure.  Maybe the weaker ones just like to live in a stronger one’s domain?  Who knows?  It’d be interesting to find out though.”  He provided a wolfish grin.

A moment later Souji and Butterfly cautiously stepped into the courtyard.

“Welcome,” Akira called.  He grinned widely.

Butterfly looked cautiously around.  Souji strode forward.  “Are you Raidou’s Shadow?”

“I suppose shells do cast shadows,” Akira admitted.  He strode to the middle of the ring.  “But what happens when the shadow is sturdier than the shell?  Unfair to think the shadow cracks alongside.”

“Who are you?”

“You already asked that with an assumption.  Just because I am not a complete match does not mean you’re allowed to neglect the truth before you.”

“Truth?”

Butterfly moved up beside Souji.  “What do you want?”

“Freedom, of course.  I want my freedom.”  A katana appeared in his hands.

“Get ready,” Butterfly warned.

“One on one.”

“We won’t do anything that limits our ability to save Raidou,” Souji declared.  Izanagi appeared above him.  “Ziodyne.”

Akira shuddered slightly, but showed no other signs of damage.  Most notably, the lightning failed to stun him.  He charged forward with a yell.  The arena itself seemed to respond, light raining down on Souji and Butterfly.

Izanagi vanished.

Akira got right in Souji’s face.

“Vorpal blade,” Butterfly called.  Thanatos appeared, ready to launch a flurry of slashes on Akira.

Akira slid his blade into Souji’s gut.

Thanatos landed the hits.  Akira pulled back.

Blood didn’t come out of the wound.  Instead, the katana pulled forth a viscous black substance from Souji’s body.

Akira swung at the offending persona.

More black ooze.  Souji tried to summon a persona to heal himself, but he couldn’t find it.

Thanatos leapt back, letting out a roar of anger.

Akira charged.

More blackness.

Butterfly came beside Souji.  “What is this?”

“I don’t know.”  Souji’s knees gave out from under him.

“Does it hurt?”

“No.  It’s just…”

“What?”

“Empty.”  He wretched then, black ooze frothing forth.

This time, it seemed not to just viscous, but almost solid.  It slowly began to shape itself into a humanoid form.

Butterfly pulled Souji back.  The pain of thorns cutting into his flesh returned Souji to coherence enough to stagger back with is companion.

Thanatos disappeared.  Akira turned to the persona users.  Despite the fight with Thanatos he had only a single gash across on arm to show for it, and even that didn’t look very serious.

He didn’t pursue though, instead tilting his head to watch the newly formed shadow as it staggered to its feet.

The ooze slowly began to slide off.

“What is this?” Souji whispered.

“Birth,” Butterfly responded.  “A shadow being born.”

“But…”

The first thing truly revealed was bandages.  The shadow, while distinctly human in shape, was covered in bandages.  Most notable were the long ones wrapped around the eyes.  They flowed against the hair, a dull silver, until the two became indistinguishable.  The next most notable thing was the fact that this shadow was clearly female.  She wore a thin shroud, which really didn’t matter with all the bandages, but her form was still clear enough.

She seemed to look around, even though she couldn’t see.

“Souji,” Butterfly whispered.

He nodded.  This then, this was his shadow.  That would certainly explain why he couldn’t feel Izanagi at all, but how could this have even happened?

The arena disappeared, reverting to a more normal looking courtyard.

“I should have only caught a fragment,” Akira breathed, seemingly shocked at his own abilities.  He had intended to see if he could stun the persona long enough to get at the human behind it.  He certainly hadn’t intended to draw out the persona user’s shadow.  He hadn’t even thought he could.

The shadow turned to him.  “I’m sorry.”

Raidou came down to stand just slightly behind Akira.  “What did you do?”

She shrieked.  A shot of black and Raidou reeled back, mouth covered in rubbery shadow stuff.

“No questions.”

“Wa-“ Akira clamped his mouth shut.  “That’s an interesting rule.”

Souji forced himself up to her.  He knew what he had to do and felt no apprehension in his approach.  If this was his shadow, then so be it.  “I don’t understand how this happened, but you’re my shadow.  I can see that.”

She reached out her hands.  He let her place them on his face.

“We have the same face.  I know that.  I accept you.”

Her nails dug deep into his skin.  “Liar.  Liarliarliarliar!”  She ripped back, drawing blood as she peeled off the skin.

Akira grabbed her before she stumbled back.  “Don’t push yourself.  You’re still a newborn.”  A powerful newborn, sure, but a newborn.

Butterfly took a look at the scratch marks.  “Guess you have to mean it.”

“But I do.  I don’t understand what’s wrong or how this happened.”

“No one cares,” the shadow whispered.  She leaned against Akira.  “No one cares.”

“Tell us your name,” Raidou pushed, hands in front of his mouth in case she decided to send more gunk.  “I’d like to know what to call you.”

She whispered, “Izanami.”

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Fall To Rebirth: Chapter 26

Fall To Rebirth: Chapter 26

Inside Out

 

Souji watched Raidou go down, but with a giant crocodile, hippo…thing coming at him, found it impossible to respond.

“Don’t let it hit your persona,” Butterfly warned.

Persona nothing.  Souji didn’t want the giant shadow slamming into him at all.  He dove away, moving away from the unconscious Raidou as well.  Better the enemies never even notice.

The shadow followed him.

“Ziodyne,” he hissed.  Izanagi appeared long enough to send a bolt of electricity crashing down.

The huge shadow barely slowed.

Izanagi became Loki.  “Garudyne.”

Wind whipped around the giant shadow.  It barely slowed.  Just how strong was this thing?

The sound of a lyre gently struck.  The beginning of a melody.

Souji couldn’t even describe it.  It just made life seem threadbare, pointless, and miserable.  Around them several of the apathy syndrome cases slowly died.

“What is this?” the shadow user hissed, stepping back.  Even her shadow had stopped, caught in the melody.

Souji felt caught too.  He couldn’t get himself to do anything.  Tears slowly began to roll down his cheeks.

A pair of hands gently covered his ears.  The song seemed to vanish, but even so he could feel it.  A funeral dirge for all those lost.

“Attack now,” Butterfly whispered in his mind.

Souji looked at the woman and her shadow, both pressed down by the funeral dirge.  Only one attack seemed right now.

“Alice,” he whispered.  A persona in the form a young English girl appeared.  “Will they die for me?”

The girl twirled and curtsied.  A moment later cards rained down from the sky.  The woman simply looked up at them, her shadow doing likewise.

The shadow dissipated.  The woman fell to her knees.

The hands moves away.  The dirge had stopped.  Butterfly approached her.

“Not so hard to destroy a shadow.”

She stared at the ground.  “How?  You couldn’t even harm it, and now it’s gone.”

“You’re right.”  Butterfly kneeled down across from her.  “Shadows are never really gone, just severed.  To use shadows not even your own.  Despicable.”

Souji glanced over at Raidou.  The cat, Gouto, crouched on the fallen man’s back, carefully keeping an eye on things.  What had happened to him?

“What do you know?  You who found joy.”

“You take joy in harming others.  In encouraging them to simply stop.”  Butterfly reached out a hand, palm resting on her forehead.  Her eyes widened.  Then, with just a soft whimper, she fell.  Butterfly stood.

“How’s Raidou?”

Souji stared.  “What did you do to her?”

“Just let her know what dying feels like.  It should keep her down for a while.”

“Why aren’t the police here yet?”

Butterfly looked around at all the bodies.  “Maybe better that way.”  He moved over to Raidou.  “May I have a look?”

Gouto jumped off.

“Souji, could you flip him over?”

“Huh?  Sure.”  Souji moved over to turn Raidou over to his back.  “Why can’t you do it?”

“Feeling prickly.”

Raidou’s breathing was shallow, but steady.

Souji let out a relieved sigh.  “He looks like he’s sleeping.”

“Hmmm…” Butterfly lightly tapped Raidou on the nose.  Nothing.  “Someone’s not home.”

“Meaning?”

“Shadow world.”

“What?”

“I don’t know how,” Butterfly admitted, “but I think he got drug in.”

“He’s not a persona user.”

“We need to go after him.”

They heard a great crash from next door.  A moment later a couple of armed police officers charged into the room.

“No one move,” they shouted.

Butterfly and Souji immediately held up their hands.

A plainclothes detective walked through the doorframe.  “Put your guns down.  Just because we said it might get dangerous doesn’t mean you need to look for an excuse.  Identify people who’ll need help when the paramedics get here.”

“Yes, sir.”  The armed men began examining the room.  The detective approached Souji and Butterfly.  He cast a concerned look down at Raidou.

“I’m guessing one of you is Souji Seta?”

“Yeah. That’s me.”

“Good.  I’m Detective Daisuke Sakamoto.  I’m Raidou’s guardian.”

Guardian?  That felt weird to think about.

“Well, I was.”  He sighed.  “What happened to him?”

“We’re trying to figure that out,” Butterfly explained.  “If you get us somewhere quiet I think we can help him.”

“Somewhere quiet?  Hmmm.  Hard to do smack in the middle of a crime scene, especially moving this many people.”

“Speaking of which, the woman over there,” Butterfly gestured to the shadow user, “she’s part of the group running this.”

“Is that so?  Alright then, we’ll keep her confined until Raidou can question her properly.  In the meantime, agency or hospital?  I can have one of my men drive you.”

“Agency,” Butterfly responded.

Souji nodded.  It would probably be best to move Raidou somewhere familiar.

“Alright then.”  He pulled out a radio.  “I need someone to drive some witnesses to the Narumi Detective Agency.  Yes, that one.”  He sighed.  “Alright, we’ll wait.”

“The medics just arrived, so they’ll help move him.”

“Thanks.”

“Yeah, well, you all owe me an explanation when this is done.”

 


 

Souji hadn’t realized the agency had an upstairs, but by the time they’d gotten back Miss Narumi had already rolled out a futon for Raidou, made tea, and gotten some warm water ready so they could all wash up a bit.  When they got there she’d easily led everyone upstairs and cleaned off Raidou’s face.  She’d also removed all the excess equipment so he could rest more easily.

“Now, is there anything you two need?  According to Daisuke you think you can help.”

Butterfly nodded.  “Just quiet.  Don’t freak out if we’re not here.”

“Do you have any idea how many background checks I have to run?  I don’t intend to notice.  Gouto can keep an eye on you two.”

Souji bit his lip.  He had to ask.  “Um, excuse me, Miss Narumi?”

“Seta?”

“How can you just accept this at face value?”

“Why wouldn’t we?  We’ve seen things over three fourths of the population vehemently denies, and even fewer actually see.  Why would we assume there wasn’t yet more to see?”

Butterfly smiled.  “How practical.”

“Denial serves no one.  Now, is there anything you need before I go?  And do you have a time estimate?  How long before I start worrying?”

“I have no idea,” Butterfly admitted.  He turned to Souji.  “I can get us in, but I’ve never done something like this.”

“I don’t know where it will put us, but it really depends.”  Souji regarded Miss Narumi.  She stood calm and confident.  “Hard to stay in for more than a couple hours though.”

Butterfly nodded before turning to Miss Narumi.  “Give us two hours.  If we’re not back by then you can worry.  Also, Raidou might show physical signs of stress.  We’re connecting to his mind, so I don’t know really know what will happen.  If it gets too intense he may need medical care.”

“Understood.  I’ll come up to check periodically.”

“Thanks, Miss Narumi.”  Souji looked at her.  “But, I’ve been wondering something.”

“Don’t you need to hurry?”

“She’s right.”

Souji sighed, but nodded in agreement.  How could they just trust him the way they did?

Miss Narumi seemed content with that and headed out.

“I don’t get it,” Souji whispered.

“Aren’t you the one all about friendship and faith?’

“Doesn’t it seem weird to you that they trust us so readily?”

“A bit,” Butterfly admitted, “but I don’t think they’re as trusting as you think.”

“What do you mean?”

“I think they’re more about giving us the chance to prove it.”  He looked down at Gouto.  “After all, it’s not like we’re unsupervised.”

“Meow.”

“I guess so.”  Souji shook his head in an attempt to clear it.  “Anyway, how do we do this?”

Butterfly wrapped his arms around Souji.  “I think you just hang on.”

“What?”

Souji felt something prick into his arms and shoulder.  “I can act as a portal.”

It hurt, seeming to wrap not just around his body but around Izanagi as well.

The world spun.  Souji closed his eyes.  The spinning sensation stopped.  He opened them again.

A giant Torii gate stood right in front of them.  Butterfly stood.

“Guess this is the entrance to his dungeon.”

“Yeah.”  Souji stood as well.  He felt a little dizzy, but otherwise fine.

“Ready?”

“Yeah.  Let’s go save him.”

They walked through the gate together.

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