Yeah so life got in the way a little. I've been hectically busy and snowed under and basically totally forgot about the entire account for nearly two months. I'll try keep things a little more regular, sorry!
Thanks to Kanjilearner for reminding me though :p
"I have a list," Minako said, sitting down at the top of the newly made bed, "Of what I want to do in the next nine days."
"Minako," Akihiko began uncertainly.
"Can it," she said sharply. "We're not going to talk about what may or may not happen at the top of that damn tower until we get there, clear?"
"Alright," he said eventually.
"Good. This is the list." She passed it over and he scanned the page.
Buy a book from Bunkichi and Mitsuko
Go for Takoyaki with Maiko
Chat with Bebe (video call preferable)
Crash Tanaka's office
Meet Mutatsu's family
Visit Akinari's grave
Sit down for food with the full team – shadow talk forbidden for one night
"These are all the friends you made in Iwatodai, aren't they?" Akihiko asked after a moment.
"They're the social links I made," she said, "So yeah, my best friends essentially. Talking to Rio earlier made me realise something."
"It made me realise – and don't hate me for this," she took a deep breath, "It made me realise that I want to keep living, that I want to know these people longer and experience a full life and everything. But it also made me realise that if I have to go back… if I absolutely have to become the seal again… then I will do it. And I won't hesitate."
"No. You promised."
"You're not being fair, Minako."
"Tough. But this is what I want to do first, and I think talking to them again will do me good. I get stronger when I'm with the people on that list. They are where my power comes from, in a really weirdly literal way."
"You already know I'll support the list," Akihiko said, disregarding it, "But you can't go into that fight knowing you might die all over again!"
"You can't protect me from everything Aki!" she exclaimed. "I have this power for a reason, if I don't use it then what does that make me? If Nyx wins, I still die after all."
"But you're not stuck on that… that thing forever!"
"And even if I am, all of humanity gets to live on. You get to live on. Mitsuru does. Junpei, Yukari, Ken… Rise, Chie, Kanji, Naoto, Yu, the rest of them. You think I'd rather everyone died, just so I could be spared a little pain?"
"Fine, a lot of pain. Is that what you want to hear?" Her voice was rising as her temper flared. She jumped to her feet, whirling to face the still seated Akihiko. "Do you want me to tell you the truth? Because the truth is that being the seal was the worst and most horrible thing that has ever happened to me. Thinking back on it makes me shake so hard I think I might throw up. When I sleep, I can't see anything but the darkness that covered everything on the worst days, like fog that suffocated every single sense I had left. Sometimes my scars ache and bleed or reopen when I'm not expecting it, and I can always feel a scratching at my back as though Nyx is still trying to force her way past me."
She was shaking now, hands clenched into fists at her sides as took a deep, shuddering breath. "But for all that, I would still do it all over again because I couldn't bear knowing that all my friends were going to die. Now while knowing I could have done anything to stop it. Even that." Her voice broke slightly, and she finally looked away.
"Minako," Akihiko said softly. She looked back at him, tears obscuring her vision.
"Don't try to stop me fighting Aki," she said thickly, "It won't work. And you can't beat yourself up about it either. This is my choice. I choose to make whatever sacrifice comes in nine days. That matters, Aki." He rose to his feet, arms wrapping around her shoulders as she trembled.
"I know," he sighed. "But if you stand to face Nyx like you did last time, I'll be by your side this time. I promise."
There was a strange gust of wind through the room, and Caesar flared into life behind him. He felt something within himself click into place. He felt the power grow within himself as he held Minako tight while also accepting that one day he might have to let go. Caesar faded and they were alone.
"You think they're done yelling?" Junpei asked uneasily, glancing up at the ceiling. They had all heard Minako's words, and had it not been for Rise's intervention they would have barrelled up into her room without any hesitation. Rise had stopped them, however, telling them to leave them be for at least a little while. "They needed to have this fight," she'd said.
"Yeah, they're done," Rise said after closing her eyes briefly and reaching out with her senses. "Sanada's persona resolved."
"Ooh, nice," Yosuke said, "Did he get a fancy new skill like Junpei and Fuuka did?"
"Uh-huh," Rise said, nodding. "Jupiter's Wrath."
"That doesn't sound like something I want to be on the wrong side of," Yukiko said after a moment.
"Definitely not," Rise agreed.
"We have two and a half hours until I want us to meet outside of Tartarus," Mitsuru said, coming down the stairs with an armful of slim, A4 folders. "I want you to take this time to read these." She handed the folders out, one per person, until she was left with only one each for Minako and Akihiko.
"What is this about?" Yosuke asked.
"It's all the information the Kirijo group has about other persona incidents," Mitsuru explained. "We knew there had been some," she went on, "From our previous affiliation with the Nanjo group, whose leader we now know to be a persona user of some not insignificant power."
"Who's this Philemon guy?" Junpei asked, scanning the first page, "Having a dude handing out persona power around would be kinda useful."
"The file contains all the information we have on him, information obtained from the Nanjo group before the Kirijo group split away. I have heard from a fairly reliable source that Philemon is no longer present in this world."
"What, he's dead?"
"They were very specific in their wording," Mitsuru said after a moment, "So while I doubt he is what we would call dead, he will certainly be of little help in our current predicament."
"There are other Wild Cards?" Rise exclaimed, turning the pages of the file.
"Yes. None appear to be as powerful as Arisato or Narukami, but most other persona users seem to be able to access a variety of arcana, rather than having a single persona in the manner we do."
"Huh, now I feel kinda short-changed," Yosuke laughed.
"Well, short-changed or not I want everyone ready to enter Tartarus on the stroke of twelve," Mitsuru said. "We'll head out at half eleven and wait at the entrance for the start of the Dark Hour."
"And now the world waits as the so called 'Dark Hour' ticks ever nearer," the reporter said gravely. "Across the world, flights have been halted, traffic has been stopped and the world is holding its breath. Following the revelation of a supernatural war going on across the globe, several units of what have now been dubbed 'Persona Warriors' have appeared, preparing to fight the monsters that inhabit the Dark Hour. I pass you on now to Mark Cavendish, our reporter in Leeds city centre, where one such group are preparing to fight."
"Thank you Fiona." The screen had changed to show a middle aged man standing a short distance ahead of a group of six teens, one or two of who were shooting uncertain or even irritated looks towards the cameras. They all held weapons of one kind or another. "The group behind me emerged from Leeds Train station barely twenty minutes ago," he said, "Arriving clad in armour and bearing weapons, a state that would usually have them stopped much earlier were it not for a single addition to their collection – I understand these evokers were flown in from Japan under the direct orders of Mitsuru Kirijo and delivered directly to these young adults you see behind me."
One of the group, a tall blonde girl with a muscular build, drew and swung her sword as though she'd been using it for years – and perhaps she had. One of her friends muttered something to her and she sighed, stomping over towards the camera.
"You should really clear the street," she said, glancing pointedly down at her watch, "It's nearly four o'clock."
"Your name is Natasha, correct?"
"Natasha Collins, you are the leader of this group?"
"So do you possess the 'Wild Card' ability, as it has been called."
"Umm… yeah I guess, but I think it's different. From what those guys on TV said, they can summon all arcanas. I've only got a few."
"And what arcanas do you summon from."
"Look, I really think you should get inside, the Dark Hour is going to hit any second now and..."
The feed cut off.