Never “Just” Friends

Never “Just” Friends

A short story written as part of #talesofsanta.  You can also find it on my tumblr (lessiehanamoray).  Hope people enjoy.

 


 

Elysia sparkled.  Flickering flames hovered around the homes and lit the paths.  Earthen lanterns lined the paths, encasing the flames so they wouldn’t burn anyone who strayed.  Wind danced among the skybound fire, causing it to flicker and dance.  It even seemed to drift the flame away from anyone who wandered near.  The light reflected off of intricate ice sculptures and well-placed icicles.

The stars above shone like iris gems.  Indeed, their reflection in the snow below seemed to call out to long forgotten memories.

Sorey stared, an open-mouthed grin on his face.  He had seen the fire lights before.  The fire seraphim put them up on winter nights to help keep the town warm.  Sorey had never seen them used so artistically before.

“Yeesh, it’s really decked out,” Rose remarked beside him.

Sorey nodded eagerly.

Mikleo manifested beside him.  “I’ve never seen them use this many artes for decoration before.”

“Yeah.”

“Seems like overkill, if you ask me,” Edna grumbled, materializing just ahead of them.  She lightly twirled her umbrella, the out snowflake pattern catching the starlight and sending out a dazzling array around her.

Zaveid popped up just behind Rose and Sorey.  “Pretty awesome if you ask me.  It’s not often you get to see so many seraphic artes used in unison.”

Lailah appeared beside Edna.  “It certainly is breathtaking, isn’t it?”

“Then what are we waiting for?”  Rose marched towards the gates of Elysia.  “I wanna go talk to this gramps of yours.”

The party followed her through the gates. Upon crossing the threshold, the spells which marked Gramp’s domain, and hid the seraphim of the village, lost its effect.  The seraphim of Elysia appeared before them, standing in the central area of town.

Slightly in front of most of the town stood Gramps and…

“Alisha!” Sorey exclaimed.

The princess bowed.  “It’s good to see you again, Sorey.”

“Definitely but…”  Wasn’t she busy?  He paused, looking at her with his mouth slightly agape.

“I received a message requesting I return here,” Alisha explained.

“Can Princess Alisha see seraphim too?” Rose queried.

Edna jabbed Rose with her umbrella.

“Hey, what was that for?” Rose complained, skipping a bit away from the dangerous umbrella.  She’d seen enough hellions go down to Edna’s umbrella wrath.

“She needs to draw from Sorey’s power to see us,” Lailah explained softly in an attempt to quell the commotion before the whole village noticed.  Better the Shepard’s companions looked less childish in front of other seraphim.

Sorey decided it would be best to respond to Alisha.  “It’s good to see you too.  Can you sense the seraphim better now?”

“I still can’t see them,” Alisha admitted, “but I can certainly feel them more clearly than I used to.”  She spread out her arms.  “I knew when I first met you, that you hadn’t been raised alone.  This time I can feel the warmth of your family.”

“Is she sure that’s not all the fire talking?” Mikleo muttered.

“Come on, Mickey-boy, give the lady some credit,” Zaveid scolded, leaning over the younger Seraphim.

“Indeed,” Lailah added, “it is quite possible that, after her experiences with us, Alisha is much more aware of both seraphim and hellions.”

Gramps, Zenrus, stepped forward.  “The seraphim of Elysia decided that the Shepherd deserved a bright night for these dark days.”  He blew a puff of smoke from his long pipe.

The smoke swept across the ground, causing earth to rise into a simple long table.  Crystalline chalices and platters of food covered it, the smell of meat and vegetables wafting towards the group.  The fire seraph’s flames illuminated the feast, highlighting all the best dishes.

Alisha stepped back from the sudden display, more startled than distressed.

“Whoa,” Rose exclaimed, “that looks delicious.”  She rubbed her tummy eagerly, keeping her eyes on the food even when Gramps spoke again.

“Mikleo, Sorey, you work hard to bring light into the world.  You, and your friends.  You deserve a night of light and merriment.”

“Thanks you, Gramps,” Sorey and Mikleo replied eagerly.

“Yeah, thanks.”  Rose moved up to the food.

“It is quite the feast,” Alisha noted, seeming to grasp the general gist of events.

“Mabo Curry,” Edna muttered.  Lailah spotted a thin line of drool forming at the edge of her mouth.

Gramps clapped his hands.  Several seraphim broke off from the main group, grabbing instruments.  They then began to to play a lively dance tune.  Alisha looked towards the source of the sound.

“What lovely music.”

For her part, Rose took the cue to dig in.

“Hey, Sheps,” Zaveid leaned on Sorey’s shoulder, “I get she can’t see us.  Can she feel us?”

“Uh,” Sorey looked quizzically at Lailah.

The fire seraph shrugged.  “She has resonance, and she’s certainly aware of us, so… maybe?”

Zaveid offered his wolfish grin.  “Perfect.”  With that he moved away from Sorey and towards Alisha.  He adjusted his hat as he approached, making sure it couldn’t possibly fall off.

“This is going to end poorly,” Mikleo muttered.

Indeed, the seraphim in the village, even Gramps, were moving to create plenty of space around them.

“For once I agree with Mi-bo,” Edna replied.  Even she stepped back.

Zaveid grabbed Alisha’s hands.  She jumped.  Zaveid wrapped his large hands around her smaller ones.  She couldn’t pull them away.

“Are you a seraphim?” she asked, a vague stutter evident in her voice.

Zaveid shook her hands, mimicking a head nod.

“I can feel you,” Alisha replied, a slow smile spreading across her face.

Zaveid grinned.

“Uh-oh,” Sorey and Mikleo whispered.

Zaveid spread Alisha’s arms out.

“Sorey?” she queried, looking over to him in confusion.

“Just, uh…”  How could she follow the dance if she couldn’t see it. He spluttered for a moment before desperately turning to Rose.  “Rose, dance with me?”

Rose looked up from her food, spoon full of mabo curry in her hand.  “What?”

Zaveid began tugging Alisha around.  Sorey moved towards the table to grab Rose’s hands.

“Guess we need to show the princess how it’s done, huh?”

Sorey nodded even as he pulled her along.  Rose looked sadly at the food a moment before joining in.

Lailah clapped her hands in excitement as the groups began to dance.  Other seraphim joined in, giving Alisha and Zaveid plenty of space.

Alisha knew her way around most dances, even folk ones, allowing her to avoid collisions and guess several of the moves simply from Zaveid’s invisible lead.  With a little visualization help from Sorey and Rose, and quickly fell into step.

Mikleo sulked at the edge of the ring.  At least, until Lailah lassoed him right in.

Once Alisha got a hang for the steps, they began to dance properly.  The pace increased, and partner trading began.

Edna sighed as a fellow earth seraph drug her in.  Alisha would probably need the help anyway.  Most of the seraphs of Elysia weren’t strong enough to make their presence felt, even to someone who knew they were there.

Indeed, Alisha had a hard time with the partner swaps.  Sorey and Rose quickly realized to call out right before the shifts, and Sorey grabbed the princess’s hand for the first swap so she could figure out the motions.

She smiled at him in thanks.  “This is truly an incredible experience.”

He nodded.  “We’ll make this work, I promise.”

“Yeah.”  Her grin reflected the joy Sorey felt at being surrounded by friends and family.  He couldn’t help wondering, even if she only knew a few of the seraphim here, if she really did feel their warmth.

Maybe, even if humans couldn’t see seraphim, they might still one day dance with one another.  Certainly, Alisha seemed to be enjoying it.

She even enjoyed it when they passed partners again.  She was going to get paired with one of the fire seraphim, but he couldn’t grab her hands.

With a lovely twirl, Lailah replaced him.  She had the power to properly hold onto the twirling princess.

“We’ve got you,” Sorey assured her again, dancing off with another seraphim.

Alisha began laughing, truly caught up in the music and the light.

They spent much of the evening dancing, eating, and telling stories.  Whenever Alisha joined the dance, Sorey made sure to dance too, so she could watch his movements.  Even Gramps joined in on the fun for a bit, dancing with both Alisha and Lailah at various points.

They went to bed with full tummies and smiles on their faces.

 


 

Sorey stared out at the clouds below him.  Knowing what lay beneath the drifting sky made Elysia feel more isolated than ever, like it hovered on a mattress of cloud and hid under a blanket of stars.

So much darkness in the world, so much malevolence, so much pain.  None of it even visible from these heights.

He heard the crunch of snow just behind him.  Sorey leaned back his head to see Mikleo standing over him.

Mikleo dropped a blanket over his head.  “You’re going to get yourself sick.”

Sorey stood, draping the offered blanket over his shoulders.  No reason to get it soaked.

“What are you doing out here anyway?” Mikleo asked, moving beside him.  “The view hasn’t changed.”  His voice dropped as he spoke.

Sorey looked back over the ledge, what for so long had acted as the end of the world.  “No, it hasn’t.”

“But we have.”

Sorey nodded.  He could feel Mikleo looking at him, but continued looking at the clouds below.  Did they block all the stars from shining below?

One hand slid off the blanket to rest at his side.  Sorey wasn’t sure how long passed.  After a time he became aware that his left shoulder was colder than his right.  Despite that his left warm felt perfect.

Mikleo had wrapped a hand around Sorey’s left hand, gripping it warmly.

Sorey looked back up.  Mikleo followed his gaze so they looked eye-to-eye.  A definite part of Sorey had expected Mikleo to retract his hand the moment he realized he’d been caught.

Instead they just locked gazes, slowly turning to properly face each other.  Sorey reached out with his other hand, letting the blanket fall.  Mikleo received it.

They looked rather similar to how it had looked when Zaveid grabbed Alisha’s hands.  Stretched out and firm.

Remembering the lively music, Sorey began to sway his arms.

“What are you doing?”

Sorey gripped Mikleo’s hands tighter.  Then, after a deep breath, he quickly exclaimed, “Dancing!”

Suddenly, they were twirling around the field.  Snow kicked up in little flurries around them.

“Whoa,” Mikleo shouted.  He didn’t pull away though.  Instead, he began to join in properly.

Sorey began to hum the melody of the dance tune.

Mikleo whispered the harmony.

And they danced.

Sorey could feel the movement warming his body.  He could also feel the snow melting on him.  He’d get cold later, but for now, he felt entranced by by his surroundings.  Both the gentle snow and beautiful seraphim in front of him.

They pulled closer as they danced, until Mikleo’s face was about all Sorey could see.

Their lips just touched, Sorey’s lips catching onto Mikleo’s whistling ones.  All sound stopped.

For a moment they stayed like that, unsure whether to pull closer or further.

Sorey lifted the light seraphim up a little higher.  Mikleo pulled forward.

They almost seemed to hover there then, closed lips just touching, breath hot on each other’s faces.

MIkleo felt highly aware of the way Sorey’s hand wrapped around his lower back.  Sorey pushed him even closer, making it hard to breathe.

“Maybe I am gett–”

Mikleo kissed him, taking the opportunity formed by Sorey’s suddenly open mouth.  He could feel Sorey tense.  It only pulled them closer and lifted Mikleo higher.

And disrupted Sorey’s balance.  He fell onto his back with an oof.  Mikleo came down with him, even though Sorey had let go when falling.

Not one to waste an opening, Mikleo pressed back in with his kiss, hands reaching out to grab Sorey’s.

Sorey made no move to pull back, and even slid his hands so they could hold each other properly.

Mikleo pulled back.

“Your eyes are sparkling,” Sorey muttered.  The sparkling expressed his joy more than any grin ever could.

“I’ve always wondered…”

“…what you saw me as.”

“Are we friends?”

“Brothers?”

“Or…?”

Sorey slowly sat up, wrapping Mikleo in his arms.  Mikleo returned the favor.

Sorey kissed him.

“You too, huh?” Mikleo muttered.

“I was so scared of you getting hurt, of scaring you away.  Nothing would be worse than you leaving me.”  Water began to pool under Sorey’s eyes.  He bowed his head.  “I don’t know what to do, and all the time I worry.  I worry you’ll get hurt, or worse, and I don’t know what I’d do.”

Mikleo leaned forward to kiss one of the tears.  “You’d recognize it was my decision to come with you.  Right from the start, I chose this.”  He nuzzled against Sorey’s face, appreciating his thick and soft hair.  “I know what could happen, but it could happen to you too.  I don’t know what I’d do, if I had to live with myself knowing I could have stopped it.  Always wondering, what would have happened if I was there.”

“Mikleo, I’m sorry I ever asked you to leave.”  Sorey squeezed the water seraph tightly.  “There’s no way I could have ever made it this far without you.”

“Obviously, you big doofus,” Mikleo replied with a smile.  He could feel water at the edge of his eyes as well, but refused to let it fall.  “And we’ve gotten to discover all sorts of ruins together.”

“And make a lot of new friends,” Sorey added.

“And discover so many secrets.”

“It’s really amazing how much we’ve learned.”  Sorey pulled back enough for them to really look each other in the face.  “Like the fact we aren’t just friends.”

“We never have been ‘just’ friends,” Mikleo scolded, “and we never would have been.”

“I know.”

“It is nice to know where you stand, at least.”  Mikleo leaned forward in Sorey’s lap, hand resting just a bit below the stomach, to highlight his point.

Sorey blushed.  “Now that would be cold.”

Mikleo blushed too.  Then, he just leaned back and laughed.  It didn’t take long for Sorey to join in.

“When this is all over,” he promised, or tried to, but he was hard to sound serious when just saying it made him laugh even more.

“You’re such a child,” Mikleo chided, despite his whole face going red.

“I still promise.”  Sorey’s smile softened away from pure mirth and towards warm love.  “I still promise that when this is done, you and I will explore the world.  We’ll see everywhere.  We’ll find every ruin.  And we’ll find a way for seraphim and humans to live together.”

“For us to co-exist.”

Sorey kissed him again.  “Nothing can stop that.”

Mikleo returned to kiss vigorously.  “You better keep your word, Sorey, because I’m going to hold you to it.  To many years exploring the world together, just the two of us.”

“It’s a promise.”  Sorey extended his pinky finger.

Mikleo wrapped his own around it.  “Pinky swear.”

“Pinky swear.  Now, I owe you for tumbling me into the snow.”

“You should probably get inside.”

The light in Sorey’s eyes warned Mikleo he had other plans.

Sure enough, a moment later Sorey pounced, landing on top of Mikleo and getting him soaked in cold snow too.

“If we get hypothermia in the morning, I’m blaming you,” Mikleo shouted.

“We’ll just have to cuddle for warmth then,” Sorey replied.  He wrapped his friend, his love, in a giant bear hug.  Mikleo playfully attempted to free himself, causing them to roll around in the snow.

It didn’t take long for laughter to ring through the clearing, tears rolling down their faces from glee.

They watched the dawn together, holding each other close.  They then returned to Elysia, where it turned out Alisha had just started to worry about Sorey.

Rose wasn’t up.  Edna was though, and she jabbed Mikleo for making the Alisha worry.  He pulled back a bit behind Sorey, grimacing.

“Was that really necessary?”

Lailah chuckled gently, directly fire to hover around the two and warm them up.

Zaveid gave them an odd smile, not so different from the one he gave to pretty women.  It sent a fresh shiver down Mikleo’s spine.

The wind seraph just laughed.

Alisha brought Sorey a warm cup of tea.  “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yeah.  Just had to think about what to do next.”  He took the tea.  “This has been great, and I feel a lot better, but there’s still a lot for us to do.”

“Yes,” she agreed.  “I will do everything I can to help.”

“Isn’t she sweet?” Zaveid commented.

“Princess Alisha is a fine ally,” Lailah reminded him.

Sorey smiled at her.  “I know you will, Alisha.  You’ve already done so much.  Sorry, if this pulled you away from an important mission.”

She shook her head.  “It’s fine.  I’m glad to see you again, and dancing with the seraphim was an incredible experience.  Not to mention knowing they trust me enough to invite me to their home.”

Sorey glanced over to the seraphim in the area.  They gave her space to avoid collisions, but Sorey didn’t get the impression she made them nervous.

“Oh, here comes Gramps,” he muttered.

The old seraphim looked Mikleo and Sorey up and down.  He puffed furiously on his pipe.

“Are you feeling better now, Sorey?”  He didn’t sound angry.

“Yeah.”

Gramps’ gaze turned to Mikleo.  “And you, Mikleo?”

“Thank you so much for this celebration.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

Mikleo’s face slowly turned red.

“Humf.”  The edge of Gramps’ lips curled up in a smile.  “Just make sure you lot don’t leave behind any regrets..”

“We know,” Sorey assured him.

Apparently content with that, the old seraphim summoned another table of food, this one emphasizing eggs and fresh bread.  “Then don’t leave home with an empty stomach.”

“I’ll go awaken Rose,” Alisha volunteered.

“Sure.  Thanks.”

Alisha rushed away.  Zaveid, Lailah, and Edna all turned to give Sorey and Mikleo an odd look.  Lailah even went so far as to cover her face with her papers.

“What?” Mikleo questioned, growing flustered.

“Did you two become adults while we weren’t looking?” Zaveid asked.

His own earrings probably could have blown Sorey over at that point.

“What?! What are you even talking about?”

“And here I thought you saw each other as brothers.”  Edna opened up her umbrella, turning around so that only it faced the two.  “Guess I was wrong.”

Lailah side-eyed them.

Sorey scratched his head.  “Are we really that obvious?”

All three seraphim regarded him and Mikleo, each smirking in their own way.

 


 

P.S. I received my Santa Secret just a little bit ago.  It’s a bunch of Tales of the Abyss GIFs.  They’re super sweet.

 

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 24

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 24

April 15th

Lazy Detective Agency

Souji wasn’t quite sure what he’d had in mind when Raidou had asked him to his office, but an old building in Shinjuku with the words “Narumi Detective Agency” written in faded lettering on the door hadn’t exactly been it.

The woman, sitting behind the desk of three monitors and two laptops, caught him even more by surprise.  She wore a giant headset on top of her neat black bun, yet still managed to look up when they entered.

“Welcome home,” she greeted.  “The tea’s ready.”

“Thanks.”  Raidou gestured to a couch in front of an old coffee table.  Souji and Butterfly cautiously sat down while their host poured them tea, bring it over on a tray, along with some red bean cakes.  The woman behind the desk resumed her tasks.

Raidou sat down across from the two persona users, reclining easily in the battered old armchair.  It had clearly been there a long time, seeming to conform the tall man’s form.  A black cat jumped on the chair’s back before settling its gaze upon them.

“That cat followed us,” Butterfly opened, staring uneasily at the feline.

“His name is Gouto. My secretary is Sakura Narumi.”

“The cat part of the agency too?” Butterfly asked.

Gouto nodded.

“So you really are a detective agency,” Souji mused, looking cautiously around.  Several black and white pictures hung on the walls, and he could just make out a staircase in the back.

“Correct.  We’ve been around since well before the bombings.  My grandfather and her great-grandfather ran it.”

“A family business?”

“We re-established it ten years ago,” Miss Narumi explained.  “However, our segment of the building is indeed from before the war.”

Raidou rested his head on his fist, gazing at Butterfly.  “First question, what are you?”

Souji jumped.  Butterfly, however, didn’t seem so surprised.  “Me?”

According to Igor he was a soul and god fused together, but Souji had no idea how Butterfly described himself.

“I’m a ghost,” Butterfly answered.

“Ghosts rarely manifest in the primary realm,” Miss Narumi remarked.  “While it answers the question at its most basic level I find it an unsatisfactory explanation.  It doesn’t even begin to cover your ability to manifest in a physical form.”

“All you’re getting.”

Raidou sighed.  “Miss Narumi?”

The woman stood, pulling out her phone.  “Stand in front of me,” she commanded.  Cautious, but more curious, Butterfly did as he was told.

Miss Narumi clicked her tongue.  “Thanatos.”

“Like this?”

“He appears to have modified some of his base data,” she continued.  “I do believe this may be the origin point.”

“Interesting,” Raidou mused.  “Go ahead and sit.”  Miss Narumi sat back down at the desk.

“I’m not just Thanatos.”

“Obviously,” Miss Narumi replied.  “Your information would come through clearly if you were.”  She looked at Raidou.  “Most likely a pact.”

He nodded.  “A man who runs suicide clubs and a god of death.”  He turned his gaze over to Souji.

“We’re friends.”

“You’re the one Kyou called out.”

Butterfly glared at Raidou.  “Tell him.”

“What?”  Souji turned to regard his companion.

“Go ahead.  I’m curious.”

“But-“

“He knew about me,” Butterfly reminded him, “so just tell him.”

“Why is he after you?” Raidou prompted.

“We got into one of his clubs.”

“And took down a woman spreading apathy syndrome,” Butterfly added.

“So it is actively spread,” Raidou mused, biting his lower lip for a moment.  Miss Narumi typed vigorously at her keyboard.

Souji and Butterfly both nodded.

“How?”

“We’re not quite sure, to be honest,” Souji replied.  “It has to do with shadows, but beyond that we don’t really know.”

“Shadows?”

“That which we hide,” Butterfly explained.  “Everything we repress, the shadow of who we are.”

“Shadows can come out and attack people,” Souji added.  “When I dealt with them at first they only appeared within a special realm connected to the human conscious, but these people seem to have figured out how to harness for their own purposes.”

“Similar for me,” Butterfly added, “but they actively prey on people who fit a certain profile.  These people develop apathy syndrome.  I’m not quite sure what’s happening this time.”

“Do you know his motives?”

“No” Souji admitted.  “That’s what we’re trying to find out.”

“They’re ripping shadows out of people,” Butterfly added.  “They then use those to create more powerful ones.  The suicide clubs draw people in, people who want to die, and they use them.”

A pause hung in the air.  Raidou chuckled slightly a moment later.

“I see.  Just one more question then.”

“What is it?”

“What can you do to stop it?”

There it was, hanging in the air like a heavy fog.  Souji looked to Butterfly for support.  He received an encouraging nod.  No reason to turn back now.

“Sometimes a full shadow comes out of someone.  Instead of a single fragment it’s more,” Souji paused, “more complete.  These shadows actively try to break the person they emerge from.  If they win, the person dies.  If the person instead accepts their shadow they can become a persona user.”

“This group, Armageddon, I think they do something similar, but instead of accepting their shadow and becoming persona users they steal the shadows from someone else.  I’m not sure why this is preferable, but I believe their leader is the only true persona user among them.”

“Persona,” Raidou whispered.

“In the psychology of C. G. Jung, the mask or façade presented to satisfy the demands of the situation or the environment and not representing the inner personality of the individual.  The public personality,” Miss Narumi recited.

“It’s what we use to combat shadows,” Souji added.  “We have to accept ourselves completely, but then we use these aspects to form persona and battle.”

“Well,” Miss Narumi remarked, “I suppose that would count as satisfying the demands of the situation.”

“You summon it?”

“Outer personality,” Butterfly reminded him.

Raidou looked up at Gouto.  “Have you ever heard of this?”

The cat shook his head.

The detective turned to look at Souji and Butterfly again.  “Could you show me?”

Souji sighed.  “I’ve never just summoned it to show someone,” he admitted.  “I’m not sure anything will happen.”

“Just try it,” Raidou urged.

Miss Narumi held out her phone.  “I’ll see what data I can gather,” she explained.  “I’m curious how this registers.”

Souji closed his eyes to concentrate.  “Izanagi,” he whispered.  He could feel the persona stir within him.  A moment later he felt the surge of energy as it materialized.  “This is Izanagi,” he announced, slowly opening his eyes.  “He’s my primary persona.”

“Fascinating.  The energy doesn’t register at all.  Are you getting anything, Raidou?”

He stood up, staring up at Izanagi.  “Can I touch him?”

“I don’t really know,” Souji admitted.  “He’s physical, but not, especially outside the shadow realm.  I guess you can see what happens.”

Raidou reached out his hand, tugging gently on Izanagi’s coat.  The tug connected and the coat moved.  To Souji it just felt kind of nauseating.  Raidou backed off.

Izanagi diffused.  “I can summon him a long time to fight, but I’ve never just pulled him out to show off before.  It does seem a little more exhausting in the real world.”

“Raidou?” Miss Narumi interjected sharply.

He looked at her.

“The police have a lead.”

Raidou stepped back to look at Souji and Butterfly.  “Looks like we have a lead on a suicide club.  The police can round up people.”

“But they can’t deal with shadows,” Souji confirmed.

Raidou nodded.  “If you’re telling the truth, I may not be able to either.”

“There’s a terrifying thought,” Miss Narumi responded.

Nodding, Raidou asked, “Do you want to come?”

“Really?”

“I’m not exactly endangering you further.”

What a different mindset from Mitsuru.

They both heard the whirr of a printer.  “If you’re going to work with us then you’ll need to sign some nondisclosure forms,” Miss Narumi explained.  “There’s no guarantee this is the right club, but it is owned by Kyo Kinamo.”

Raidou walked over to pull a couple of forms off the printer.  He brought a pen over as well.  “We need to protect confidentiality.”  He placed a contract in front of each of them.

Butterfly skimmed the contents.  “Well, this isn’t a bad way to keep us quiet.”

“We are professionals,” Miss Narumi reminded them.  “If you want to get involved we need to know you won’t become a liability.”

“So fast,” Souji whispered.  All of this, so fast.

Raidou walked across the room, grabbing a larger coat that hung.  “I’m leaving fast.  Thanatos, can you cover your own transportation?”

“I’m called Butterfly, and I can stick with Souji well enough.”

“Good.”

“He primarily uses a motorbike,” Miss Narumi explained.

“Excuse me,” Souji interjected, “but this contract almost makes it seem like I’d be working for you.”

“You’ll function as an intern.  You don’t have the appropriate background for it, but at least you’re the right age.”

“We may not get an opening like this again,” Butterfly reminded him.

“We still don’t know how much to trust them.”

Raidou pulled a weapons belt off the rack.

“I feel fairly confident they’re prepared at least.”

“No kidding,” Souji responded, eying the gun, “but it doesn’t help against shadows.”

“That’s what you’re for.”  Raidou turned to look at both of them.  “We can’t dawdle.”

“I’ve told the police to let us handle it, but they’re not exactly fond of the idea.  If you wait too long they’ll get moving.  We can discuss the full terms of your internship later.  For now, let’s just call it a trial run.”

Souji looked up at Raidou for a moment.  How had everything gone so smoothly?  He seemed understanding at least, even if not entirely trustworthy, and they definitely knew what they were doing when it came to detective work.

“Connections with the police would help,” Butterfly reminded him.

Souji signed the contract.

“Let’s move.”

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Vocamerica

Vocamerica

If you’re into vocaloid then you may have already heard about the kickstarter project for Vocamerica (found here), but if you haven’t, it’s an attempt to bring english speaking vocaloid concerts around the country.  Right now it’s just Nekocon, but there’s some nice prizes for backing and the better this goes off, the more likely it is to become a proper touring concert (at conventions at least).

The project is fully funded, and has hit several stretch goals, but if you want Sonika, or improvements to projection equipment, there’s still a bit more to go.  Seeing as I’ve posted some vocaloid song lists before, I thought I’d do some featuring the performers for Vocamerica.  If you like how they sound, consider spreading the love and backing the kickstarter project.

Click the titles if you want to head to the video on YouTube.  Also, you can listen to music on BandCamp without an account and, generally, without purchasing it, so don’t worry about following those links.  I just keep a wishlist and buy as I can, meanwhile enjoying the music to remind myself why I want it.

A Wicked Boy and a Tin Girl by Empath-P

If you like this song you can purchase it on Bandcamp (here).

Que decida el corazón by CYOStyle

Okay, so it’s in Spanish, that’s still definitely America (Latin America, not Spain).  Honestly, finding a good Maika song was my first time listening to this myself, and it’s quite lovely.  CYOStyle is listed as one of the contributing artists for Vocamerica and I have to sound this sounds quite nice.

I don’t think this is on an album currently, but here’s his Bandcamp account.

Breaking Point by MystSaphyr and Crusher-P

And one UTAU for variety.  I’m actually very fond of this song, so no problems here.

Pretty positive I’ve linked to this before, but here’s the album on Bandcamp.  I definitely suggest it.

Unbreakable by YusukeKira

I’ve had Ruby suggested to me before, but this is actually my first time seeking her out.  She does sound really nice, so I definitely look forward to hearing more.

There’s an extended version of the song available on Bandcamp.

Now, on to the stretch goal vocaloids!

Emotionless by Circus-P

So, this is not the most beautiful Avanna song out there.  I admit that and if this is your first exposure to her I, kind of, apologize.  If it makes you feel better, it was mine too.  And, honestly, I really love it.

You can find this song on Bandcamp here.  If you want to hear more of Avanna, I suggest hitting up this album.

Sunflowers in Your Eyes by Empath-P

As the list began with Empath-P so too shall it end.  Seems fitting seeing as she’s the one heading the project.  This song has come to mean a lot to me.  It both cheers me up and makes me melancholy, often calling on me to think of my friends.  Really, the whole album is like that (found here).

So there you have it, I’ll see about forming a proper playlist later, but this had to be a bit of a rush job to make sure I actually did it in time for people to donate to Vocamerica.

If you’re interested in what else I listen to on Bandcamp by account can be found here.  It’s mostly vocaloid and indie game soundtracks.  If you liked hearing some English speaking vocaloid you can check out my previous blogpost.  There may be doubles, I admit, but I generally try to avoid that.  I found some cool new songs looking into these vocaloids, so I hope you did too.

UPDATE:

I added all but the Maika song to my English Vocaloid Playlist.  Amazingly, no doubles.

 

Also, the kickstarter has reached stretch goals for all of its vocaloids plus Big Al!  If you want in on it you can find the kickstarter by following this link.  As of posting this update there are only 29 hours to go.

Vocaloid: A Hint of Tradition

Vocaloid: A Hint of Tradition

Theoretically, today is national haiku day, so I thought I’d focus on songs with either a somewhat traditional sounds, or from a more traditional source (such as folktales and legends).

Kagome no Tori/ Bird Cages

The song Kagome is sort of the Japanese equivalent of Ring Around the Rosy.  It’s cute, has a game that goes with it, and is not so secretly evil, frequently representing a trap (it can mean cage).

Kagome, Kagome/ Circle you, Circle you

Speaking of Kagome being insanely creepy.  Here’s a version which connects to ghosts and nazi experimentation on orphans.

Better yet?  I’ve got covers.  Love them both, so decided to post them both.

First is rockleetist’s version.  Both versions use her lyrics.

I kind of like it sung by a deep voice though, so here’s Ashe’s version.

Dream Eating Monochrome Baku

The baku is one of my favorite mythological creatures.  Traditionally a guardian, the baku eats nightmares.  If you’re particularly troubled you call out to it, and it’s considered good luck to have the kanji for its name stitched onto a pillow so it knows to come.

However, there’s a dark side to the baku as well, especially in popular culture.  After all, a creature that only eats nightmares might enjoy causing them as well (much of the plot of the manga Nightmare Inspector), or perhaps it will decide to simply eat all your dreams away.

Here’s a cover I like of this one.  There’s another popular English cover, but it pushes more towards the impish side and less the tricksters.

Tsugai Kogarashi

Not only does this one sound a little more traditional, but it’s apparently based on a folktale as well.  Mostly though, I just think both Kaito and Meiko sound really lovely here.

Also, with the wonders of digital music, you can purchase a version of it from amazon, here.

Seasonal Feathers

Okay, so it’s kind of cheating.  That said, this is a great story beautifully told by Kagamine Rin and Len.

There’s a couple of covers I really like of this one, but I’ve decided to go with the Lucy and Ham version because I feel like their translation makes the story clearer.  If you want to look up JoyDreamer as well, she also covers this song beautifully.

The song, and entire album, can be found on Amazon here.

As usual, here’s the playlist.  And, if you need a shot of happiness after ending on Seasonal Feathers (your welcome) here’s a post I did on vocaloid songs which make me smile.

Vocaloid: English Songs

Vocaloid: English Songs

English software and vocaloids have made producing music in a myriad of languages easier over the years.  While Japanese is still generally more prominent there are a few English producers I really adore, plus the occasional odd song.  I don’t think I’m getting too obscure yet, but some of these songs are definitely newer.

Sharing the World – Bighead

I honestly don’t have a lot to say about this one.  I like it.  It’s in English and uses Miku.

Ten Thousand Stars – CircusP

There’s going to be a lot of CircusP as these lists continue.  His song, Insanity, is what finished exciting me for Vocaloid.  I’ll probably just have his songs as a theme one week.  This song won the Miku Expo song contest for 2016’s tour and utilized Miku English.

Dream With You – Guitar Hero Piano Zero (GHPZ)

I mostly think of GHPZ for remixes, but when he does original songs they tend to be rather good.  I’d guess he’s best know for Glass Wall, which also played at the Miku Expo, but I really love his work with Yohioloid.  Okay, I just really love Yohioloid, but I’ve found it difficult to find songs I really like with him.  When I do, I leap upon it.

You can purchase this song at bandcamp.

Two Weeks- EmpathP

As is typical for EmpathP, another favorite, the lyrics to this song are beautiful and touching.  I was going to include another song by her instead, but that might just happen on a Yohioloid day.  This one is sung by Dex.

It can also be purchased at Bandcamp.

Creative – Eyeris (Creep-P)

A little bit of Avanna love, since I’d already included EmpathP in this list.  I ran into this song via Circus-P’s remix.  It’s quite catchy.

I’m linking you to the deluxe edition on Bandcamp, since it includes Circus’ remix.

Original Version

Circus-P Remix

And here’s the Playlist.

Vocaloid: Happy Birthday Me

Vocaloid: Happy Birthday Me

This last week has been, minus one major setback, pretty great.  I attended Hatsune MIku’s concert in San Francisco on Saturday, the short film festival on Sunday, had amazing sushi, and now it’s my birthday.

I’ve been into vocaloid for a while now, but had mostly stopped exploring it.  Miku Expo reminded me how much I really love vocaloid and its community.  All these creators coming together, all these ways to express yourself while simultaneously belonging to a community.  It’s really great.

And so I decided I want to delve back into the content.  The plan is a weekly list of five songs picked based on a theme.  This week it’s songs that make me smile, with preference given to the ones included in Miku Expo.  I’m going to try to avoid doubling up on creators in a given week, as well songs.  There’s so much out there and, while this week is pretty standard, I hope to use this as a reminder to explore more on my own as well.  When there’s an English cover I really like for a song I will include it as well.

So, let’s do this.

Blue Star by HachiojiP

The main theme for this year’s Miku Expo seemed like a good place to start.  I first ran into HachiojiP with Sweet Devil on Project Diva f.  If you’re looking for fun beats, he’s definitely a go-to producer.

You can get the song from the official Miku Expo EP.  I got mine at Kinnokuniya, but you can also order it from CDJapan.

Byakkoya no Musume (KAITO) – Paprika End Theme Cover

Okay, so most of what’s on this list is going to be kind of old, that doesn’t change how I feel about it.  This song is so rich and full, and Kaito.  What’s not to love?  On top of that it’s a cover for the end theme of one of my favorite movies, Paprika.

The song can be found on the Exit Tunes album Vocalodream (which is great, by the way).  The movie, Paprika, can be found on Amazon.

 

Remote Controller (Rimocon) – Jesus-P

If you’re looking for super fast sibling rivalry, Jesus-P is the producer for you.  His Rin and Len Songs tend to the ridiculously adorable and super fast.  Amazingly, JubyPhonic has managed to cover a couple of them, and they sound great.  I admit it, I first ran into this one on Project Diva F.

You can find this song on Amazon MP3.

And JubyPhonic’s excellent English cover:

 

NeapolitaN – ApolP and Aki Glancy

Wait, a song not sung by a Crypton vocaloid?  Yep, Yohioloid’s actually a favorite, pretty much entirely based on this song.  If you check out the description it’s up for download too, so you can listen to it as much as you’d like.  I’d suggest giving the lyrics a read as well.

Sekiranun Graffiti- Supercell

Okay, so this is rather old and very well known.  It’s still one of my absolute favorite songs for cheering myself up.  Something about this song, especially with it’s music video,  make me want to go on an adventure.  Incidentally, Supercell is generically pretty awesome.

 

Click here to link to the playlist on YouTube.  Or watch it embedded below if you want to just listen to all the songs.  This playlist while likely get filled with more upbeat music as I progress, so I hope you can keep enjoying it.

 

If you have suggestions for themes or producers to check out let me know in the comments.  I’m up for adventuring with Vocaloid again.

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 23

Fall to Rebirth: Chapter 23

4/15/2015

A Moment’s Peace

 

Naoto: Mitsuru just informed me that she believes shadows are involved in a recent number of suicides. I’ve been told to pass it on and urge all of you to be on the lookout. So far they’ve only had isolated cases in Tokyo, but the cause remains unidentified.

Rise: Oh man. I have a concert coming up too. I was hoping things would stay calmed down.

Yosuke: Seriously? That sucks.

Teddie: You make me beary sad, Naochan.

Souji’s hand hovered over the digital keys on his phone. He had no idea what to say.

Rise: Hey, Souji lives in Tokyo, right? Man, I hope he’s okay.

Yosuke: Now that you mention it, he usually responds by now.

Naoto: That is part of why I selected this time.

Souji sat in a café, where he always studied between classes, staring at his phone. Even so far away they knew him so well.

Butterfly peered over his shoulders to watch the conversation. “Say something.”

“What?”

A shrug.

Souji sighed. Butterfly was right, of course, but what should he say? Maybe just a confirmation would do.

Souji: Understood.

Yosuke: There you are, partner.

Rise: Thank goodness. We were starting to worry.

Naoto: I’m glad you’ve responded.

Another window for a chat between just him and Naoto.

Naoto: Have you noticed anything?

“I can’t lie to her.”

Butterfly leaned back. “Hmmm. Maybe feel her out first?”

Reasonable enough advice, he supposed. It felt a little wrong not to just immediately trust Naoto and her judgment, but maybe this way they could get some new information.

“Involving shadows?”

Naoto: Yeah. Several hundred cases of apathy syndrome were reported yesterday in central Tokyo.

“Hundred?” Souji choked. That woman had caused hundreds of cases? He’d been there and he still couldn’t quite wrap his head around it.

Butterfly reached out, gently tapping on the phone.

Souji: How widespread?

Souji glared at him. Butterfly shrugged.

Naoto: Pretty much everywhere within the Yamanote line. Researches are investigating the cause, but it’s hard to explain why it happens even with the proper knowledge.

That seemed like more than the area he and Butterfly had covered. They exchanged looks.

“It is an organization,” Butterfly reminded him.

“Yeah, but just how big is it?”

“At the rate she was moving it wouldn’t take long to cover the area within the Yamanote line.”

“I guess, but still…hundreds of cases.”

“Fewer than you’d expect.”

“Fewer?”

Butterfly nodded. “A lot of fewer. We were lucky. Or perhaps she drove people straight to suicide.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Not this time.”

Souji sighed. How could anyone make fun of that?

Naoto: The Shadow Operative are stumped. Apparently, there’s never been an outbreak quite like this.

“Wrong,” Butterfly whispered, “but perhaps not this sudden.”

“Wouldn’t be quite like it then.”

“I guess.”

Souji: Do they have any idea what caused it?

Naoto: It should be a powerful Shadow, but they haven’t seen any like that recently. A lot more small ones though.

She was being so open with him. Her trust reminded him of the strength of their bonds.

“I have to tell her.”

“Only if she promises to leave the others out.”

“Why does it matter so much? Don’t you want them to help?”

“No,” Butterfly snapped. He stood up. “They’re your friends. Do what you will with them.” He began to sulk towards the exit.

“Wait. Butterfly!”

Several heads turned towards them, but Souji did his best to shrug them off. Now what had he done?

Fortunately, Butterfly didn’t actually wander off. He just stood staring at the campus.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t’ try your community tricks with me.” He looked up at the sky. “Clear day.”

“Yeah. It’s nice after following all that shadow stuff around.”

“Yeah.”

“Butterfly, why don’t you want them involved? You fought together before and I’ve seen them in combat. They’re incredible.”

“I know that.”

“Then why?”

“I wanted them to move on,” he whispered. “I wanted them to drop it.”

“How could anyone do that after an experience like that?”

“How could they forget?” Butterfly whispered. He turned to Souji. “They forgot. All of it. Gone. Never happened, and then they pretend they can never move on.”

“You can move on, and they have. Yukari is a model. Akihiko is studying to be a detective. Ken is almost done with high school.”

“And yet they fight.”

“How could they not? They want to help.”

Butterfly turned away. “Come on. You’ll be late to class.”

 


 

 

“I just heard from the morning class,” a student hissed excitedly, “Miss Suzuki is out today.”

“Seriously?”

“Man, that sucks.”

“Maybe we’ll finally get someone who makes some sense.”

“I like her.”

Souji barely paid any attention to hubbub. A teacher calling in sick wasn’t such a rare thing that it warranted astonishment. Especially since she had a toddler. Who knew how many diseases that woman got exposed to in a day?

The lecture hall door opened.

Izanagi reacted, but in a way Souji couldn’t identify. Whatever it was, it had all of them on high alert. Even Butterfly seemed to be tensing from his hairclip form.

Whoever was coming through that door was dangerous.

A man only slightly older than the students walked in. He wore a white button down shirt with no tie and a black leather jacket. His pants appeared to be leather as well, as did his boots. He stepped up to the podium and stared up at the silent class.

With a sigh, he turned around and wrote his name on the board.

Raidou Kuzunoha.

Whispers erupted around the room.

“No way!”

“Isn’t he the freshmen slayer?”

“I heard they never let him teach.”

“Getting a crush on him is referred to as a curse.”

“He’ll kill you if you so much as look at him wrong.”

How had Souji never heard of this guy?

The temporary instructor turned back to the class. “Done yet?”

His sharp tone and level eye contact made it quite clear that only one answer would do.

Now that Souji thought about it, that even gaze seemed way too close and personal for how far apart they were. His eyes shouldn’t have been so clear. Certainly, not clear enough to identify the hint of blue.

“You are?”

“Souji Seta.”

Raidou looked down the class roster. He then glanced back up. “And the odds all of you are seated correctly?”

Assigned seats? Yeah right.

“Very well. I’ll start by asking you, Seta-kun.”

Souji stood. Class began.

 


 

 

After class with Raidou, Souji wanted nothing more than to rush out of the room. The substitute had been brutal. His explanations of the material were alright, and he clearly knew his stuff, but he also clearly thought of anyone who didn’t know his stuff as an idiot. He hadn’t handled questions well at all. Topping it all off his phone had gone off during the class. A teacher’s phone going off? Seriously?

For some reason though, Butterfly urged him to stay.

That’s why he found himself lingering as the rest of the class ran away. That’s why he found himself now staring awkwardly at Raidou.

“Question?”

“Ask him anything,” Butterfly urged inside Souji’s head. “I just want to get a feel for him.”

Why? “Just wanted to confirm the homework.”

Raidou sighed. “You wrote it down.”

Souji bit his lip.

“And you’re a terrible liar. Can I go now? E-mail Serena with questions. It’s her class.”

“You know our teacher?”

Radiou just gave Souji a dead-eye glare.

“Sorry. Guess that’s pretty obvious. Are you both in the graduate program then?”

Raidou slowly nodded.

“What’s she like?”

“Stop wasting my time, Seta.” Raidou grabbed his bag.

“Wait.”

He didn’t wait. For a moment Souji just stood there, staring at the door.

“Interesting,” Butterfly remarked, materializing beside him.

“What’s interesting?”

Butterfly tilted his head. “He felt wrong.”

“Think he’s with Armageddon?”

“Not sure,” Butterfly admitted. “Something’s off though.”

Souji’s phone buzzed.

UNKNOWN: Click Here

“What do you think?”

“Looks like a video link.”

“Then why can’t my phone just load the video. It has internet here.”

UNKNOWN: Password: PH4RO5

Souji and Butterfly exchanged concerned glances. Then, he clicked on the link.

Password required.

He typed in “PH4RO5”.

A video popped up. Kyou stood against a view of Sky Tree.

“Hey, darlings,” he greeted with a grin.

Was this really the man they’d met just a few days ago?

“Thought I should let all of you know that we’ve got a bit of a problem lately.” It finally registered with Souji that this video was taken at night.

“Just a few days ago our dear mother Nephtys was brutally attacked while spreading the message. The attackers, a pair of dastardly persona users, show no regret for destroying the peace and even went so far as to attack her shadow directly.”

Souji looked at Butterfly. He’d never asked how he’d found everything out.

“Unfortunately, this forced her to the stage of final breath. Without her the spread of contentment will be greatly slowed.” He pouted dramatically. “So, I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands.” He held up a photo of Souji. “Cute face, huh? Strange how those always hide the brutal murderers. This hotbed of deceit needs to experience the stages. Needs to find his answer and face Armageddon. And so, I say, bring him to me alive. I’ll be waiting at the club.”

The video abruptly ended.

UNKNOWN: Why is he targeting you?

Souji: Who are you?

UNKNOWN: A friend. Why is he targeting you?

Souji: I can’t answer if I don’t know who you are.

No immediate response. Souji looked up to Butterfly. “You killed her?”

“No.”

“Then why’d-“

“I don’t know.”

“Why is he targeting you?”

Souji and Butterfly both turned sharply to the door. There stood Raidou Kuzunoha.

“Where’d you come from?”

“Just closed the door.” The man stepped forward. “Heard everything.”

“Why were you spying on us?” Butterfly demanded.

“Why is he targeting you?”

“Did you send that video?” Souji asked.

“Someone wants you dead, and you’re worried about who warned you?”

“Who are you?” Butterfly demanded.

“Raidou Kuzunoha the Fifteenth,” the man responded. “Devil Summoner.”

“Devil summoner?”

“Correct. My agency has been investigating the recent outbreaks of the disease known as apathy syndrome.”

“Why?” Butterfly asked.

“Abnormal occurrences is what we do. We’ve had eight, ten, people come in reporting loved ones with apathy syndrome they believe related to illicit activities. Three cases lead to suicide clubs where several more incidents were discovered. Seven cases appear to have simply occurred. In only two of these could we trace anyone who might have a motive to cause such a state, and we still haven’t found what causes it in the first place. The only common thread is in the suicide clubs, all run by the man in that video.”

“The man targeting me,” Souji added. “That’s why you’re asking about me.”

Raidou nodded. “What do you know?”

“Only about the suicide clubs,” Souji answered. He figured it was true enough. Non persona users couldn’t help with something like this, no matter how otherwise competent they might be.

Raidou sighed. “Come with me.”

“Where?”

“Shinjuku. Easier to have a candid talk at my office.” He glared at Souji. “I don’t appreciate run arounds.”

“It’s what you’re getting,” Butterfly retorted.

“We’ll see.” Raidou looked directly at Souji. “Are you coming?”

“No.”

“Look, you can tell me what you know. Let me in. Or I can tail you until I find out anyway.”

“Must be hard when you tell everyone what you’re up to in the beginning,” Butterfly snapped.

“No.”

“How do we know we can trust you?”

“We could use each other. I need information. You’re going to need protection.”

“We can take care of ourselves.”

“Cute, but doubtful.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Not even gauging your enemy well enough to know when you’re targeted?”

“That doesn’t reflect our abilities in a fight,” Butterfly countered.

“Getting jumped?”

He backed down.

Souji looked at Raidou. “And if we do come with you?”

“We have a nice chat.”

“That’s really it?”

Raidou nodded.

“I think we should go.”

“Really?”

Souji nodded. Butterfly shrugged. “Alright then. Guess we’re following you.”

“Good.”