The girl who once knew Makoto is strange beyond Aegis' ability to measure, but her smile is kind.
Perhaps it is strange to take Elizabeth at her word, when every other thing out of her mouth is almost too incredible to believe. But she is so sincere that it's hard not to; she reminds Aegis of Mochizuki Ryoji, actually, bright and true and dangerous and hiding untold power just under the surface.
(But Aegis has never fought Elizabeth and never will, and her danger is not locked away in half-corrupted memory files but instead something that radiates from her and her smile and everything she says, and it is thrilling.)
And there is evidence, besides. The others know Elizabeth, or at least know of her, each teammate having some story to tell about their once-leader and his Personas and the place called the Velvet Room; Yukari had even heard him call it that, and she spent two days gloating over knowing something about Makoto that Aigis did not.
But most convincing of all is the way the Velvet Room seems to have absorbed something about Makoto, a smelltastefeel that has no name but his. It is not something Aigis has been programmed to detect, not the sort of thing that flashes up before her eyes spelled out in numbers and percentages.
It is a very human thing that makes the back of her neck burn, and she remembers that she has absorbed Makoto, too.
She enters the Velvet Room one evening to find Elizabeth curled up in the spot her master usually occupies.
This bothers her, for it has never happened before and it is very inconvenient for it to be happening now; she has spent hours upon hours searching for two Personas that she needs to make a third, and now that they are finally a part of her Igor is gone and her efforts were in vain and she is so frustrated that she could cry, were she programmed to associate utter frustration with tears.
She was not, so she can only stand just inside the doorway and stare at where Igor is not.
It takes Elizabeth two minutes and twenty-seven seconds to look up from the book in her lap, but when she does she is smiling as brightly as always. "Welcome," she says, like always, but instead of finishing her greeting she pats the sofa beside her. "I knew you'd come sooner or later."
Aegis does not care about Elizabeth's predictions, and she does not sit. "Where is Igor?" she demands, and her voice is only even because Makoto did not teach her proper anger.
"My master is elsewhere," she says, and there is a devious hint to her smile that Aegis isn't sure whether or not to trust. "If you require his services, perhaps you should return another day. But," she continues, raising her voice as Aegis turns away from her to leave, "it would be in your best interests to come sit with me, instead."
"Why?" What could she possibly gain from remaining here when the only reason to be here is gone? Her teammates will wonder (more than they already do) and time will be wasted (as much as time means anything anymore) and she feels incapable of sitting still just now. She has to move, to fight, to expend this angry nervous energy before it overloads her circuits and renders her useless.
Silence is her only answer. She turns to demand a better one and sees that Elizabeth is holding up the book she was reading; even from across the room, the name on the cover is instantly recognizable and familiar.
"I think," Elizabeth says, smiling that dangerous smile, "that this might be of interest to you."
The book is something called a Persona Compendium, and the reason Aegis hasn't seen it before now is that Elizabeth's brother filed it under "A" instead of "blue". (Aegis does not ask why any filing system for books would have a "blue" category, but only because Elizabeth has a way of not letting her get a word in edgewise if it won't be entirely kind.)
Each page has several envelopes attached, and each envelope is labeled in a messy, faded-pencil scrawl. The writing is barely readable but Aigis can still pick out familiar names as Elizabeth turns the pages; Alice, Pyro Jack, even Orpheus. Below the name of each Persona is its level and Arcana, and below that a list of its skills.
The Compendium is a complete and perfect record of Makoto's soul, and each page turned makes the memory of Makoto's fingertips burned into her neck ache in a way she was never programmed to feel.
"Why didn't you tell me this existed?" she asks, sliding open one of the envelopes. Inside is a single Tarot card, worn at the edges and bearing a Persona's image. Ose. "I would have helped you find it." She would have done anything just to know of its existence.
Elizabeth does not immediately answer, and Aegis lifts her head and frowns at the uncharacteristic hesitation. "My master said you weren't to have it," she finally says. Aegis has never seen her so serious, and it suddenly strikes her that perhaps her explanation of chaotic filing systems wasn't entirely true. "The Compendiums are... sacred. Once a guest leaves the Velvet Room for the last time, his Compendium is sealed - never to be opened again."
She closes the book, and now that she is looking Aegis can see scorch marks on the cover and the edges of the pages. "To open a Compendium once it has been closed is a terrible sin. My master will be terribly unhappy with me."
And yet she didn't let that stop her.
Aegis does not know what to say, and so for a long while she doesn't say anything. She just stares at Ose's card in her hand and wonders what she is supposed to say now that she has discovered that Elizabeth committed a sin for her sake.
"I have heard," Elizabeth finally says, "that people who have loved someone often find comfort in grieving together for their loss." She takes the card from Aegis' hand and tucks it carefully away in its envelope, then holds out her arms. "Would you care to try?"
The tastefeelsmell of Makoto that has permeated the Velvet Room has settled into Elizabeth as well, but the comfort of her arms around Aigis' shoulders is something entirely new. Aegis closes her eyes and rests her head against Elizabeth's chest, and for a while she does not notice that Elizabeth's heartbeat, in a human, would be cause for significant alarm; she only notices that the rhythm is soothing and constant, like the rhythm of Elizabeth's hand stroking her back.
She does not know when she falls asleep, but when she wakes she is back in the dorm again, Makoto's Compendium hugged tightly to her chest.
The cards inside are only cards to her. She cannot transform them into Personas the way Elizabeth can.
But each one is a part of Makoto kept safe for all eternity, and she knows she will always treasure the gift Elizabeth has given her, and value it all the higher for the sacrifice that went into giving it.