The desks were caked with an inch of dust. This was hardly surprising; it had been years since anyone had so much as cracked open the door to the lab, but Mitsuru Kirijo didn't let that bother her. The door creaked loudly as she opened it, and as the lights flickered to life they revealed a bank of old machines. The lab was scheduled for clearing the following week but she'd been unable to get rid of it without one last look.
The computer sputtered slowly to life as she pressed the button and she waited patiently for it to turn on. The screen glowed white, the logo of the Kirijo group standing out in black against it, spinning slowly as the machine booted up. Finally, she was able to log in and began to load the required programmes.
Mitsuru hesitated only a moment before finalising the process, and then she waited once more. She expected nothing to happen – she wanted nothing to happen. If nothing happened, then they could all just keep going as they had for just over two years now.
But then the machine let out a low blip, registering the readings from the various, complex pieces of scanning machinery that no one had quite got round to powering down.
Increased Shadow activity the screen read. Location: Inaba Inaba? That wasn't too far away from Port Island, all things considered. Mitsuru felt her blood run cold as she looked over the data.
They'd never even seen the occasional spike, for years there had been nothing and the machines had eventually been powered down, the programme dropped. Yet now they had readings of near constant shadow activity over the past few months. This warranted investigation, and she considered, for a moment, bringing in the team.
But that would be difficult. They were spread out now, at various universities both nationally and internationally, and it could take days or even weeks to collect everyone in one place. No, better to check it out with a smaller team first, and bring in the rest if anything serious did come up.
So who should she call? It was summer, meaning most of them would have finished their studies for at least a little while, but who was in the best position to join her in Inaba?
Not Fuuka, certainly. Yamagishi was currently studying abroad, and she was due to start a summer placement. Mitsuru would only call on her if the need was truly desperate. Yukari and Aigis, then? The pair of them were living and studying in Tokyo. Aigis certainly, would be free to join her, but it was possible that Takeba's work kept her too busy even during the summer.
Her best bet, Mitsuru decided, were those with more flexible jobs – or even no jobs at all, those who had other means to support their learning. That left her with three obvious candidates, and a fourth, if Ken could pick him up on the way. That settled Mitsuru strode out of the room, phone at her ear. She had a lot to organise if they were to get to Inaba swiftly.
The blackness encroached upon her vision slowly, and she became aware of the pain in her arms and the stiffness in her shoulders. She blinked, and suddenly everything was blue, and her arms and legs felt as though they were on fire. She screamed, and fell from the chair on which she found herself. She wrapped her arms tightly around her body, the sudden rush of sensation proving too much for senses that had become dulled by death.
"Mistress Minako," a familiar voice said, and a cool hand reached down and rested against her forehead.
"Th… Theodore?" she stuttered, her voice sounding distant in her ears.
"Yes, Mistress Minako. Can you stand?"
"I… I don't know." His hand took hers in a strong, firm grip and he pulled her up to her feet. She found her legs wobbly, but otherwise able to bear her weight.
"There are some clothes for you over there," Theodore said, and Minako realised that she was naked. Strangely, this didn't particularly bother her. She'd been the seal for so long that having her body back was a novelty, the squishy flesh giving way so much easier than the stone she had been. She slipped into the clothes and shoes, noting the scars on her arms and legs before turning back to face Theodore who held out a black book.
"The master has instructed me to allow you a full selection, free of charge," he said, "Although you may find some pages… missing."
He was right. The book was far thinner than it had been, with many pages torn out from the spine. Turning straight to the last page, she sighed with relief to see Orpheus Telos remained, and she placed a hand on the page, feeling the persona flow from the book and into her heart.
Who else, she thought as she flicked through the pages. Thor was gone, she saw… and Loki. Surt, Alice, Jack Frost, Pyro Jack… the list went on. "Where did they go?" she asked.
"They have answered the call of another – I believe you watched his progress quite intently," Theodore explained, "However those he never fused remain, as well as those individual to you, Mistress Minako. The memories of what you saw upon the seal will come back to you soon, I am sure."
She nodded, and began to make her selection.
Helel was still there, and she felt tears sting her eyes slightly as her mind turned to Akihiko. Pressing a hand to the page, she took the persona in and flicked through the pages once more. Odin. Messiah. Thanatos. Norn.
She closed the book and held it to her chest, the presence of the personas that remained within oddly comforting. "You will need this as well." Theodore was holding out her evoker, and the thigh strap she'd used to hold it in place. She took them, absentmindedly wondering how Theodore had come to possess them.
She followed him out of the room and found herself in a more familiar part of the Velvet Room – the lift was heading down, however, and there were people she did not know. She didn't hear the words spoken around her. Instead her eyes were drawn to the young man sitting in the chair – in her chair.
"I would like to introduce Mistress Minako," Theodore said to the boy, bowing slightly in his direction. "I think the pair of you will find you have much in common." Carefully, she handed the compendium back to him. "You have made your selection?" he asked.
"Yes," she replied, "Thanks, Theodore."
"As usual, any time," he replied with a smile.
She turned to examine the boy once more, just in time to see him fade away, falling out of the dream that had brought him to the Velvet Room.
"And now it is your turn to go back, Mistress Minako," Theodore said, smiling to her.
"But I can't," she tried to explain, her mind still fuzzy. "I'm the seal, I have to stay there. I can't go back." But it was too late. Only a moment later she had found herself standing alone on a street corner in the middle of a vaguely familiar city, with no way to return to the Velvet Room.
Yu was asleep. He knew he was asleep, but then that didn't particularly explain his surroundings. Everything was blue, a deep shade that was hauntingly familiar.
Yet these weren't the furnishings he'd come to associate with this particular colour. To begin with, they were far more spacious and while there was a feeling of movement, it was a lurch in his stomach rather than the more familiar feeling of a car on the road. In place of the usual, well upholstered interior he found himself in what appeared to be a lift – a lift that was travelling very rapidly down.
Before him, of course, sat Igor. As usual, the master of the Velvet Room had has fingers steepled beneath his overlong nose, and he was smiling at Yu from behind his gloved hands. "Welcome, once more," he said, "To the Velvet Room. I imagine you weren't expecting to see us this fine evening."
"I'd have to agree with that," Yu said, glancing around. He was sat in an oddly designed chair, with the double doors to the lift behind him. There were other doors, although they didn't seem to lead anywhere – they simply stood freely, two either side of Igor.
Margaret also stood to one side, slightly behind the Master of the room, and in her hands was a large brown book – the Persona Compendium. His heart skipped a beat at the sight of it, and his eyes narrowed as he glanced at Igor.
"What is this about? I thought we were done with that?"
"Oh that chapter in the book is closed," Igor assured him, "But with time a new one must open. There are still truths out there that the human mind is ignorant of, and you have the power to bring them into the light."
"Please," Margaret said, holding out the book, "Make your selection."
Slowly, he reached forward. He still held some personas within him – those he'd used in that final fight against Izanami-no-Mikoto. "Same charge as usual I suppose?" he asked drily.
"Free of charge," Margaret replied, smirking slightly. "Just for you."
He opened the book and saw that it was exactly as he'd left it. There were some empty pages scattered throughout, but most were filled with detailed ink drawings of the various personas he'd fused, and a description of their abilities all penned in what he assumed was Margaret's flowing hand.
He examined the book and the personas within him. He retained Izanagi no Okami, of course, and Mugatsu Izanagi. Of the others, he dismissed all but Ishtar from his mind, and called forth Kaguya, Mahakala and Loki in their place.
A door to one side opened as he closed the book and handed it back to Margaret. Two people came entered the Velvet room, both wearing the same shade of dark blue. One, a man who looked very similar to Margaret, was clearly another member of Igor's little crew. Perhaps Margaret's brother? Yu thought she might have mentioned him a couple of times.
The other was a young woman in a simple blue dress – Yu guessed she was maybe a year or two older than he was himself, and she was looking around nervously.
"I would like to introduce Mistress Minako," the man in blue said, bowing slightly in Yu's direction. "I think the pair of you will find you have much in common."
Minako nodded at Yu – a quick, nervous greeting, and it was only then that his eyes spotted something she was clutching tightly to her chest. It was a book, similar in size and shape to that Margaret held, only black. As he watched, she handed it carefully to the man in blue. Once empty, her hands jumped to her arms, rubbing them in a self-conscious fashion. They were covered by the sleeves of her dress, but Yu wondered if perhaps there was something more to this girl beneath the fabric, something she was hiding.
"You have made your selection?" the pale man asked.
"Yes," she replied, "Thanks, Theodore."
"As usual, any time," he replied with a smile.
The room began to fade away around Yu, the blue bleeding to black, and the last thing he remembered was a pair of intelligent red eyes looking him over, analysing him as he fell from that place.
The buzzing of the alarm made him jump, and he scrambled for his phone to shut it off. It took him a moment to remember quite where he was, but when it came to him he smiled.
He was back in Inaba for the summer. Absently, he realised he could hear movement downstairs – probably Nanako in the kitchen, Dojima would have left already. He thought back for a moment on his dream, but the details were already fading from his mind which was odd. Usually, the dreams about the Velvet Room stuck with him.
He tried to bring the face of the girl – what was her name again? – to mind, but found he couldn't. Maybe it had just been a dream? A reaction to his return to Inaba, perhaps? He put the thoughts to one side, and concentrated instead on getting out of bed.
As the train pulled into the station, Ken Amada thought back on the unexpected phone call he'd received earlier that morning. He heard from the others fairly regularly, of course, but this was something new.
"Come on, Koro-chan," he said, glancing down at the dog sitting beside him, "Let's go." Hitching his bag higher up onto his shoulder, Ken boarded the train, and together he and Koromaru looked for the seat Mitsuru had booked.
As Mitsuru had bought and paid for the ticket they were sat in first class, and there was plenty of space for both Ken and his bag. There would have been even if the car had held more than three people. Settling down, Ken watched as Iwatodai slid away to the side. Koromaru butted his leg, and smiling, Ken rubbed absently between the dog's ears.
Shadows again. It was unexpected – it had, after all, been more than two years since they'd defeated Nyx at the top of Tartarus. It was only just two years since graduation day. He could, like the rest of them, still remember the events of that day as though it had been only yesterday, although the pain had dulled since then.
He hadn't been with the others, but he'd caught up with them as they ran to the roof – or rather, they'd caught up with him, outstripping him easily with their longer legs. He remembered how bright the sun had seemed when he reached the door; how it had stung his eyes and, for a moment, blinded him.
The idea of fighting shadows without Minako leading the way was strange to him and Ken fought against the usual despair that filled him at the thought of her, and of how helpless he'd been to save her.
Rise collapsed onto the bed, exhausted. It was just a few more days until she'd be back in Inaba, and truth be told she couldn't wait. She loved her work, of course, but she loved being with her friends just as much.
There was a knock at the door, and she sighed to herself – five minutes alone was hard to come by at the moment but she'd been sure she'd be able to snatch at least a couple before anyone came looking for her.
Forcing herself to her feet, Rise padded through the suite and opened the door a crack. The face on the other side was not even close to what she'd expected. Opening the door fully, Rise took a shaking step backwards, her eyes wide with confusion and various different emotions running across her face. Her hands opened and closed at her sides, and she struggled to find the words to express what it was she wanted to say.
"Minako-senpai?" she finally managed to squeak.
The girl standing across from her smiled, "Long time no see, Rise."
"They told me you died!" Rise howled, leaping forward, her emotions bursting forth all at once, tears streaming from her eyes as she crushed Minako in a bone-breaking hug. "I was on tour, and Reiko called and said you'd died! There was a funeral and everything, but I couldn't make it. What happened?!"
"Erm… it's complicated, Rise," Minako said gently.
"Complicated!" Rise was beside herself. "It's been two years, senpai, where were you?!"
"I was dead!" Minako said defensively. This brought Rise up short.
"What?" she hiccupped, drawing back, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.
"Can we go inside?" Minako asked, "This could take a little explaining." Nodding, Rise moved aside so that Minako could enter the hotel room, and then shut the door. Minako didn't speak at first. Instead, she moved over to the window, resting her palms against the sill. Rise wondered if she was searching for the words.
Crossing her arms across her chest, Rise perched on the edge of the sofa and waited.
"I'm sorry to bring this to you, but there was nowhere else I could go." She was pacing back and forth, her hands running up and down her arms. She seemed to notice and crossed them tightly across her chest "You've fought shadows, right?" she asked at last. Of all the things Rise had anticipated, that wasn't one of them.
"How…?" she asked, her voice tailing away.
"I've been busy while I was dead," Minako replied, still looking out of the window. "I wasn't just lying around doing nothing. I could watch what was going on, sometimes. It was… peaceful. I saw you and your friends fighting the shadows, and you guys were amazing." She turned around at last, and there was a warm smile on her face that didn't quite spread to her eyes, red and sharp as ever.
"You saw that?"
Minako nodded, moving to sit at the other end of the sofa. "I'd been keeping an eye out for shadow activity," she said, "But I was surprised to see you there Rise."
"How did you know about the shadows? Did they… is that how you…" Rise couldn't get the word out, but Minako did it for her.
"Died? Sort of. You had your enemy to face, and I had mine. I sealed her away, but there was a cost to that."
"So how come you're back now?"
"I don't know, and that worries me."
"But it's a good thing!" Rise exclaimed, leaping to her feet, wrapping her arms around her friend and clutching her tight. "It's an amazing thing!"
Minako did not return the gesture, but instead slowly removed Rise's arms, holding on to her hands and looking her in the eyes as she spoke. "I had a job to do. If I'm not doing it… who is?" She let go of Rise and stared down at her hands for a while, silent.
"Was it that important?" Rise asked hesitantly. Minako nodded.
"Well then," she said, smiling. "You'd best come to Inaba with me in a few days – I know some guys who are really good at digging out the truth."
"Really?" Minako asked, her eyes lighting up for the first time since Rise had opened the door.
"Of course! And if… no when we prove to you that you should stay here on Earth being not dead, then I get to say a really massive I told you so. Deal?"
"Deal." There was a brief flicker of a smile on her face.
"Did you fight with friends too? We could call them in, get all hands on…"
"No!" Minako exclaimed, eyes wide. "No, don't call anyone in! They can't know I'm back!"
"Why not?" Rise asked, taken aback. "They'd be just as happy to see you as I am, right?"
"That's why. Because I have to go back," Minako said, stressing the word. "I have to. It's hard enough seeing you, being back here and knowing that. If I saw them then…." She swallowed, turned away. "I said my goodbyes two years ago."
Junpei was waiting at the bottom of the stairs when he saw Ken exit the station. "Yo, Ken!" he yelled, waving both his arms above his head. "Long time, no see little buddy!"
"Don't call me little," Ken said, frowning as he took the steps two at a time.
"Hmm, yeah doesn't seem to fit too well anymore. When did you get so tall?" Being only twelve, Ken was still far from his final height, but he was at least a foot taller than he had been two years ago, when they'd fought the shadows.
"It hasn't been that long since we last saw each other," Ken replied.
"Six months or so, right?" Junpei said thoughtfully. "Feels like longer though."
"Things going slowly where you are?" Ken asked.
"Yeah, but it's fine. Akihiko was right about police training – that stuff's hard. Good to see you to Koro-chan," he said, bending down to pat the dog's head. He barked happily, tail wagging eagerly from side to side. "Who else are we waiting on then?" He asked, glancing up.
"I don't know. One more, I think."
"Not Shinjiro-senpai, I take it, with Koro-chan arriving with you?"
"No. He's got shifts all week, but he said he'd cancel if we really needed him."
"He'd do it anyway, unless… unless Akihiko-senpai were joining us." As he spoke, Junpei straightened up, brushing his hands off on his jeans. Koromaru turned around and dashed over to the approaching figure, who held out a hand for the enthusiastic dog.
"Any sign of Mitsuru yet?" Akihiko asked as he reached them.
"Nothing. She said she'd send a car though." Junpei sat down on the stone steps that lead up to Inaba station, letting out a huff off air as he did so. "Shadows again, huh?" he mused. "Like old times." Silence followed his words, as each of them thought back, as they had so many times already that day, to the events of two years ago.
I've had this sitting around in my documents for months now, and I only this week figured out what was irritating me about it, so I'm now in the process of fixing it. Hurray! :D This is an 11 chapter fic, possibly the first of a short series depending on how well it's recieved, and is mostly written already. It's just the slight edits/changes I need to make in order to please myself left really.
As far as names go, I tried to do it properly with -chan, -san, -kun etc, but honestly I just don't know enough about how the honorifics work and keeping who called who what in my head was a nightmare, so for the most part I've used first names = informal, surnames = formal, and kept honorifics in certain cases, such as nicknames (e.g. Yuka-tan, Minako-chin).
The story was named for the tale of Euridyce's death and Orpheus' following underworld descent, mirrored in stories such as (you guessed it!) Izanagi and Izanami.