Disclaimer: I do not own Persona 3 or related properties. They all belong to their respective owners, namely Atlus and its parents (at this time: Sega Games Co., Sega Sammy Holdings, etc.).
Makoto sighed, face pressed against the surface of her desk. She was so tired.
It had been a week since the incident with the birds, and the most exciting thing since then had been their encounter with a single enormous Shadow on the 14th floor. In the end, it had gone down without incident — Yukari was getting more comfortable with coordinating their efforts in battle, and Junpei was turning out to be an effective team player when he tried.
Any further upward progress had been blocked by a strange gate that reassembled itself as fast as it could be destroyed. Makoto had tried completely erasing it with her light — the "almighty" element, Igor had called it — but even that had proven ineffective, the gate regrowing so quickly it had been a blur.
The residents of the Velvet Room hadn't been as much help with her power as she had hoped — Elizabeth had been able to give her a few tips on shaping it more effectively, and Igor had named it, but it was apparently a rare affinity and they had no experience with humans who controlled it by instinct. Elizabeth's own affinity was for almighty, but her training methods were extreme enough that no human could survive them.
Which led to Makoto's current position — bored out of her mind, wondering what to do next. Yukari had been a slavedriver even after their progress had been blocked, insisting that they continue to train against the Shadows on lower floors to ensure that they wouldn't lose their edge and, she hoped, become strong enough to get past the gate. It just wasn't interesting — the fights were trivial for the blue-haired girl.
Her phone rang and she blinked. Who had her number? She only owned the thing because Mitsuru had insisted they have some way to contact her in an emergency.
The voice on the other side of the phone answered her unspoken question. "It's Elizabeth! Please come to the Velvet Room. See you soon!"
Makoto stared at the phone. That had been… Abrupt. Well, at least she had a goal now.
She grabbed Junpei and made increasingly frustrated gestures until he figured out that she wanted him to take her to the mall.
Perhaps she should invest in a pad of paper. Writing down her desires would be less frustrating than this.
Junpei had been exasperated that Makoto immediately ditched him to stare at a wall behind the stairs, but he'd get over it.
"Greetings!" Elizabeth was as exuberant as always. "I have a big favor to ask. Remember when I told you I'd have tasks for you?"
"I'm ready to start handing them out." The white-haired creature grinned at her. "I've got a list right here!"
An enormous book thumped onto the table. Makoto opened it apprehensively. 'Bring me pine resin?' 'I'd like to visit Paulownia Mall?' What strange requests.
Well, one of them was simple enough, at least. She pointed to the request that read 'I'd like to visit Paulownia Mall', then gestured at the door.
"Truly? Right now?" Elizabeth's smile was blinding.
Makoto nodded. No time like the present.
The pair exited the room, and Makoto held out her hand for her reward. Elizabeth was in Paulownia Mall, task completed.
…Except instead of handing her a reward, Elizabeth happily grasped her hand and strode deeper into the mall, pulling her along.
"Oh my," the creature exclaimed, staring at the fountain in the center of the mall.
Makoto fruitlessly tried to free her hand from Elizabeth's grasp. How was she so strong?
"Is this… A fountain?" Elizabeth asked her breathlessly.
"Such a blasphemous device…" The words were spoken with awe, not disgust. "Water, the foundation of all life, forced to dance for the amusement of humans… And yet it will grant wishes for naught but a few coins!"
Makoto shrugged. She'd certainly never had a wish come true after putting coins in a fountain, but they were living in a world where an entire hour existed outside of normal time. Hell, demons were apparently real and one was living in her head. Maybe fountains just didn't like her?
"I must try this for myself." Elizabeth's eyes were burning with determination as she pulled out a small coinpurse. "I prepared a small number of coins in preparation for just such an event — 2,000 of your 500-yen coins!" She upended the thing, and Makoto stared as a rain of coins that far exceeded the volume of the bag splashed into the fountain.
Well, that was one way to get your wish granted, she supposed. Outbid all of the competition.
"Oh." Elizabeth's eyes widened. "I forgot to make a wish!"
Makoto closed her eyes and prayed to Pixie for patience.
"Next time I shall prepare a wish in advance alongside the coins." Elizabeth was beaming, seeming to have moved past her disappointment already as she dragged Makoto away from the fountain.
"And what is this?" Elizabeth had stopped in front of the police station, and was eagerly peering through the windows at the officers inside. Some were staring back at her, clearly not amused. Makoto attempted to convey sympathy with her eyes, even as she failed to tug Elizabeth away. "These posters… Most Wanted? Reward? Ah! These are like my subjugation requests."
She seemed pleased by her deduction, so Makoto just nodded. She was pretty sure you weren't supposed to kill wanted criminals, but it was close enough, really. Right?
"How do you prove that the target has been eliminated?" Elizabeth examined more posters. "None of these say which body parts should be returned. Perhaps I should go inside and ask?"
Makoto rapidly shook her head and once more tried to pull Elizabeth away.
"Another time, then." The creature nodded decisively, allowing Makoto to move her.
Unfortunately for Makoto, she hadn't really been paying attention to which direction she was trying to go, and they had ended up in front of Escapade.
"Oh my! Is this… A 'club'?" Elizabeth was bouncing. "A sea of writhing bodies, ruled by music and pleasure, encouraged by fizzy drinks… Oh, I simply must take a look!"
Elizabeth reached for the door handle, but stopped in disappointment when she noticed that the sign was flipped to closed. Makoto closed her eyes and thanked every god whose name she could remember: Nyx, Odin, Quetzalcoatl, Shiva, Amaterasu… It was some time before she reached the end of her list. She was so distracted, in fact, that she hadn't noticed that Elizabeth had begun dancing with her — she had simply assumed she was being dragged around again.
When she did open her eyes and notice, her panicked flailing caused them to trip and end up in the nearest fountain. Elizabeth's wild laughter did nothing to stop the stares they were receiving. Makoto's eyes spotted Junpei at the edge of the crowd, the boy clearly enjoying her misfortune. She shot him a death glare, and he gave her an innocent shrug. She tried a pleading expression, but he just mouthed "good luck" and walked off, an extra spring in his step.
Makoto was going to get him back for this later. He was doomed, he just didn't know it yet.
"I can't remember the last time I had this much fun." Elizabeth grinned at her. "I know! How about you choose our next activity?"
The blue-haired girl cast her eyes around, desperate to find something that would finally get Elizabeth to unhand her. The creature's grip was so tight that Makoto was pretty sure she was going to have a rather large bruise.
Her gaze landed on the arcade. Perfect. Elizabeth couldn't possibly play a game that required two hands without letting go. She pointed.
"An arcade!" Elizabeth squealed. "Is it truly a garden of electric fairies in which one might play for prizes?"
Makoto stared at her, not sure whether she should be honest or go with the answer more likely to get Elizabeth to dart over there and unhand her more quickly.
She nodded, and the next thing she knew she was literally being dragged along the ground in Elizabeth's mad dash to reach the arcade. Perhaps she should have thought that through a little more carefully.
Three hours later, Makoto collapsed on a bench by the mall's central fountain. She was right — her hand was bruised.
Junpei plopped down next to her. "Had fun?" He grinned.
Makoto shot him the strongest glare she could muster. It came out as more of an exhausted grimace.
The boy patted her shoulder. "Hey, at least you didn't lose every game you played against her, right? Not like when I went up against Yukari." He shuddered.
That was true — wait. Makoto narrowed her eyes at Junpei.
He held up his hands. "Whoa, whoa! It's not like I was stalking you. I was at the arcade before you guys!" He gave her a considering look. "Who was she, anyway? She didn't seem… Uh, entirely…" He floundered.
Makoto nodded, then did her best impression of an alien, giving herself little wiggly antennae with her hands.
"She's a demon?" Junpei's eyes were wide.
…Okay, so maybe she wasn't the best at charades. Demon worked too — it's not like she really knew what Elizabeth was — so she nodded.
"Huh." The boy's eyes glazed. "Well, good luck with that one. What's the deal, you go on dates with her and she doesn't eat your soul?"
Makoto slapped him with her unbruised hand and did her best to pantomime the situation.
"So… She needed a tour guide, and you got roped into it?" Junpei finally asked.
"I am so glad that I am not you."
A/N: In other news, since I'm doing well on advance chapters of my primary fics, I actually have a handful of chapters of a Naruto fic my friend has been bugging me to write. I'm not exactly a huge Naruto fan, myself, but there are some really cool powers, so it's something I had wanted to do anyway... Well, no need to excuse myself for writing what I want, right? How insecure does that sound?
I see two ways I could do this: put those up now and update it whenever I get out a new chapter, with no fixed schedule (meaning it could receive faster or slower updates than my primaries, depending on how that works out) without it having any effect on the update rate of my main stories, or wait until one of the mains is complete and do it as a new main.
Acheron's chapter total has been more-or-less fixed since it's fully outlined - it'll be about 29 chapters in length, possibly one or two more or less depending on how long things actually get when I write the actual content of the chapters. The length for Bonds is still very much up in the air - I know how it ends, I know most of the plot points along the way, but I don't know how long it'll take to get there, just that it will almost certainly end up longer than Acheron.
Acheron is up for chapter 7 next week, which means it still has 22-ish to go at a rate of one every other week, or another 44 weeks. That's nearly a year!
So... Any preferences? I'll emphasize again that neither one will have any effect on the update rate for my current stories. The first option will have an inconsistent update rate but will at least begin posting now (and transition to a main story with the usual rate if it's still incomplete when I finish Acheron or Bonds), while the second would have the same one-every-other-week rate as my main stories now but not have any posting until a slot opens for it.