Disclaimer: I don't own Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3.
Notes: Hey, all. I hope you'll like this! First things first, though: even though I'm writing a novelisation of a game that takes place in modern-day Japan, that doesn't mean they will be calling each other "Shinjiro-senpai" and "Yuka-tan" as they did in game—that, friends, is fangirl Japanese, and it drove me crazy (but made me laugh).
Thanks to: the ridiculous amount of betas I have for this.
End of Days
i: my ghostly shadow ( april, part one )
Time never waits.
It delivers all equally to the same end.
You, who wish to safeguard the future,
however limited it may be…
You will be given one year;
go forth without falter,
with your heart as your guide…
April 6th, 2009.
Unnoticed, a young man—tall, with dark eyes and hair the colour of crushed blue velvet—wove through the crowded streets, both hands shoved in his pockets. The chatter around him blended in with the traffic and enticing offers of the giant television screen above his head; all went unheard as he stared at the pavement at his feet and tuned into the music blaring in his ears.
Like it was very far away, he heard several obnoxious popping noises; he didn't have to look around to know that there was an idiot hacking at a shooting game in the nearby arcade. Rolling his eyes at his MP3 player, he turned up the volume as loud as it would go.
Dreamless dorm ticking clock
I walk away from the soundless room
Not so far away, water gushed thickly from a tap twisted all the way up; close by, and slumped against a marble-topped counter, a brown-haired young woman was curled up on the floor, weeping, one hand pressed to her eyes to staunch the flow of tears. Her fingers clenched around the sleek coolness of the metal encased in her grasp.
The boy continued to walk, oblivious; he ducked by a man screaming angrily into his mobile and past several children wielding giant backpacks. Ugly, mean-looking key chains peppered the front of the rucksacks, with huge eyes that glared up at the young man as he passed quietly by.
Windless night moonlight melts
My ghostly shadow to the lukewarm gloom
The girl stifled a sob and leaned back, listening to the soft plink-plink of the water, coming slowly now, as it dripped into the sink. She gripped the steel, dragging her nails along the trigger, and lifted the pistol into the air.
As he stopped at a busy intersection, the boy couldn't help but stare at a grinning man, sporting an afro and holding the leashes of several drooling dogs, on the other side of the road. He fidgeted, shifting from foot to foot and absently running his hand along the length of his MP3 player, as he waited for the lights to turn green. They did, eventually, and he hurried across the zebra crossing, just sidestepping the barking canines.
The pale brunette struggled to keep her breath steady as she raised the gun to her temple. All she could hear was her heartbeat, and, faintly—music.
Nightly dance of bleeding swords
Reminds me that I still live
For a moment, amidst the pounding of the water against the countertop above her and the barely-there music that wasn't actually playing, she thought she heard the screeching of metal spokes against tracks—the trains.
She shut her eyes against her fears and pressed the barrel of the gun to her forehead. Her slender, shaking fingers pulled at the trigger—
The boy blinked up at a blank window as he walked down the emptying road. Shrugging off the weird chill running up and down his spine, he hiked his bag further onto his shoulder and ducked his head, turning his music down a little.
I will burn my dread
I once ran away from the god of fear
And he chained me to despair
Her hand fell, useless, and the girl leaned back and sobbed, quietly, in the darkness of the bathroom.
"Attention, passengers. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused by the delay. Next stop is—"
Cold touch of my trembling gun
I close my eyes to hear you breathe
The boy looked up with a start, pulling his headphones off of his head and slinging them around his neck. He bent for the bag that rested by his feet, and nodded at the few people still riding the trains this late at night.
"Iwatodai. Iwatodai," a woman repeated over the intercom as he stepped off the juddering subway and onto solid ground. Above him, a clock with a green face tick-tocked slowly towards midnight, less than a minute away. "This is the final stop for Tatsumi Port Island. Please make sure you board in time for departure…"
He let her voice fade into the background as he fitted his headset into place. His attention wholly on relocating his favourite song, the young man moved slowly across the once-familiar, empty station.
I will burn my dread
This time I'll grapple down that god of—
Bewildered, he stared down at his now blank MP3 player. He went to shake it, wondering if the batteries had died, when behind him, the lights went out, and the nearby ticket machines went dark. The young man tensed, swallowing hard as he brushed his dark hair from his eyes and peered up at the large skylight overhead. The moon, eerily close to being full, provided a dim gleam that guided his way out of the deserted station. With a fearful shudder, he wondered why there weren't more people around.
As the revolving door to the massive building slowly shut behind him, a trail of red slid down the clock's face, frozen at midnight, and dripped to the floor.
The streets were empty, and slick with a scarlet substance that he didn't want to identify. He held up the map before him with shaking hands, purposefully keeping his eyes off the moon—he'd seen it crimson, as a child, but never green.
With his eyes fixed to the paper in front of him, he hurried across roads that cars should have been flying down, and wormed his way around tall monoliths that hadn't been there ten years ago. He wondered if it was some sort of statement, made by a small-time artist hoping to get famous.
But did they have to look so much like coffins? the boy thought as he stole a glance at the casket-like statues.
Finally, he came to a stop in front of his destination, making a face as one of his new shoes sunk into something sticky with a wet, squelching sound. After ripping his foot free and shaking it out, sending dark droplets flying everywhere, he pulled himself up the stoop and into the brick building.
It was much friendlier inside than out in the cold, he discovered, staring around at the carpeted lounge. There was a TV across the room, and beyond a glass partition behind it, he saw a cosy-looking dining room. The set of couches to his right were devoid of people—but it was past midnight, and of course his new roommates would have gone to bed by now.
Still, he thought as he put his bag down and took another step inside, it would've been nice for them to wait up for me. Letting out a sigh, the blue-haired boy shrugged his shoulders and removed his headphones.
He jumped and whirled around, his dead MP3 player slipping from his fingers. He grabbed at it, managed to catch it just before it hit the floor, and turned to the desk to his right.
"I've been waiting a long time for you."
A child sat behind the counter, his chin in his hands. He shook his head softly, smiling too gently, too kindly, and snapped his fingers, ruffling his black and white striped sleeves. His bright eyes—a startling shade of robin's egg blue—glittered in the dimness of the room. "Now, if you want to proceed," he gestured to a leather-bound book on the desk, which flipped open seemingly at his command, "please sign your name there. It's a contract." His constant smile wasn't reassuring in the slightest. "Don't worry. All it says is that you'll accept full responsibility for your actions."
The young man moved towards the tome hesitantly, and the child's grin grew wider.
"You know," he continued, dismissively, "the usual stuff."
The blue-haired boy bent over the open book and reluctantly scrawled his name in the space provided. Arisato Minato, it read, though it came out nearly illegible, as he'd had his eyes on the beaming kid the entire time. He did nothing but smile unassumingly and wait.
Once he was finished, the child all but snatched the book from Minato's hands and stepped back, clutching it close to his chest. "No one," he told his new friend, "can escape time. It delivers us all to the same end." Still grinning, he raised the contract to eye level, spinning it in his narrow fingers. It vanished with the faint echo of bells, rattling together in a place far from Port Island. "You can't cover your ears and close your eyes." The shadows in the room seemed to close around him, cloaking him in darkness, as the child retreated with one last whisper:
"And so it begins."
Minato, left alone in the parlour, took an uneasy step back. What was that? he wondered, swaying on unsteady legs.
Absolutely taken aback by this second interruption, he spun around once more; this time, a light brown-haired girl glared at him from a dark corner of the nearby hallway. She was wearing a school uniform with a pink sweater pulled over it, and her eyes glistened like moonlight. Nervously, he followed her gaze as it flitted from him to somewhere on her person.
Her hand hovered above a gun strapped to her thigh, just above the hem of her skirt.
His mouth dropping open in horrified disbelief, he fell back, fear quickly drowning out his confusion, as she clutched for the pistol and tore it from its holster.
The girl whirled around with a gasp at the sudden cry; as she did so, all the lights flickered on again, flooding the lounge with radiance, and another young woman—this one with long scarlet hair that cascaded down her back in an unruly, bloody waterfall, and a warning in her dark eyes—stepped from the shadows. The brunette lowered her weapon at once. At the same time, Minato scrabbled for his MP3 player as it suddenly began to work again, and his favourite song blared from the headphones resting at his shoulders. He turned it off as quietly and inconspicuously as he could while the girl in the pink sweater relaxed and scrunched her face into a smile.
After speaking in a hushed, angry tone to her now nervous companion, the tall redhead turned and nodded at him. "I didn't think you'd arrive so late," she said, as if nothing had happened.
He blinked at her.
"My name is Kirijo Mitsuru," she continued. "I'm one of the students who live in this dorm."
The other girl shot her a miserable glance. "Who's he?" she asked, clearly not giving one iota that Minato was standing right there, in full earshot.
"He's a transfer student," Mitsuru said, turning away from the boy in question. "It was a last minute decision to assign him here. He'll eventually be moved to a room in the boys' dorm."
The young lady in pink still seemed uncomfortable, and her hand fluttered around her thigh; Minato guessed her gun had been shoved back into its holster when Mitsuru stormed in. "Is it okay for him to be here?"
The redhead offered a small smile. "I guess we'll see." Then, turning back to the blue-haired boy and gesturing to the brunette, she said, "This is Takeba Yukari. She'll be a junior this spring, just like you." This was said with that same smile on her face, but there was no warmth in her dark eyes.
Yukari dipped in a quick bow, clamping her hands firmly together to keep them from fidgeting, though her shining eyes betrayed her nervousness. "Hey."
Minato nodded back. "Nice to meet you," he mumbled awkwardly. After a moment of hesitation, he motioned weakly to the young woman's skirt and asked, "What was with the gun?"
She turned the same colour as her pullover. "H-huh?" Yukari said, turning to stare up at Mitsuru for a moment—a silent plea for help. Upon receiving none, she moved to pick at imaginary lint on her sleeves and muttered, "Um, well, it's sort of like a hobby." Quickly, she seemed to realise how odd that sounded, and added, "Well, not a hobby, but…"
"You know how it is these days," the red-haired girl cut in finally. "It's for self-defence. It's not a real gun, of course." She shook her head, forcing out a chuckle, and jabbed at the stairs with one jewelled fingertip. "It's late, so you should get some rest," she said pointedly, nudging the brunette, who was quick to get the hint. "Your room is on the second floor, at the end of the hallway. Your things should already be there."
"Oh… I'll show you the way." Yukari started down the corridor, beckoning. "Follow me."
Minato hefted his bag over his shoulder and followed his new dorm mate up the stairs without a word. She seemed to go from desperate to talk and lighten up the mood one second, to dreading conversation the next. They ended up walking up the stairs in a silence that was only broken when the pair reached the end of the hall, and Yukari said cheerfully, "This is it." She let out a nervous giggle. "Pretty easy to remember, huh? Since it's right at the end of the hall." She bobbed on her toes for a moment, trying to think on something interesting to say. What she ultimately settled on wasn't her best choice. "Oh yeah—make sure you don't lose your key, or you'll never hear the end of it. So, any questions?"
Minato couldn't help himself. "Does that kid live here, too?" he said, despite his doubts.
A totally bewildered Yukari shook her head. "What kid?" she asked, carefully. He stared back at her impassively, and she shot a nervous look over her shoulder. "What are you talking about? C'mon, it's not funny."
The young man shrugged his shoulders and made to move past her and into his room. "Forget it," he began, but her hand on his arm stopped him short.
"Um, can I ask you something?" she whispered, clutching a little too tightly at his coat. Minato bit back his questions and motioned for her to continue. She did, but only after glancing down the hall once more. "On your way here from the station, was everything… okay?"
The blue-haired boy raised his eyebrows and stepped out of her grip. "What do you mean?"
Yukari looked vastly uncomfortable as she looked between her hand and his sleeve, scrunched from where she'd grabbed him, as if her very limb had betrayed her. "You know what I—" she started, but then bit her lip. "Never mind." She smiled, blindingly, and added, "It seems like you're all right. I'd better get going."
Hurriedly, she moved past him, only to stop a little ways down the hall. With her back turned to him, she said, softly, "Um, I'm sure you still have other questions, but let's save them for later, okay?" She turned to smile at him, again, and then vanished into the shadowy hallway with one last, "Good night!"
Minato watched her go, listening to her clip down the stairs as he picked up his bag. With a confused shake of his head, he moved into his new and pitifully bare room, knowing he'd be up half the night trying to figure out what had happened that day.
April 7th, 2009.
Minato was standing at his mirror, juggling fixing his hair and unpacking the last of his toiletries, when several sharp, short knocks resounded on the door, and a voice called from outside, "It's Yukari. Are you awake?"
The dark-haired young man resisted the urge to ignore her, and went to the door, brush still in hand. The moment he opened it, she bustled inside and said, cheerfully, "Good morning! Did you sleep okay?" Without giving him time to answer, she continued, "Mitsuru asked me to take you to school. It's getting late, so…" She took in his mussed appearance and had the grace to flush. "Are you ready to go?"
He ran a few fingers through his navy locks and assented despite the knots in it. She seemed pleased and chirped, "Okay! Then, let's go."
Chattering all the way, she led him to Iwatodai Station, just a few streets down from the dorms. They hopped on the first train heading over to Port Island, and rode in silence until they passed a triangular glass building. It was then that Yukari leapt to her feet and dragged Minato with her, pointing eagerly out the window. "So, that's it," she said excitedly, as he grappled for a handhold. "See? There it is."
After finally catching his balance, the young man looked up. His grey eyes widened, and he let out an amazed, "Huh?"
Once they arrived, Minato silently allowed Yukari to lead him off the train and down the many glittering white steps that led to the extraordinary building that stretched to the sky before them. He barely heard as, beside him, the brunette smiled and waved at people passing by, occasionally offering a sweet, "Good morning!" It was only when she stopped at the school gate and turned to him with a broad grin on her pretty face that he finally jerked out of his trance. "Well?" she said, giggling at his wonder. "This is it—we're here! Welcome to Gekkoukan High School. I hope you like it."
He didn't know what to say. The massive pearly edifice was fancier than any school he'd ever been too—and much bigger, too. A massive observatory watched from one corner, while classrooms on several stories stretched outwards in the other direction.
Still a loss for words, Minato followed her into the building. While he took off his shoes, Yukari took a quick look around and said, "You're okay from here, right? You should go see your homeroom teacher first." Nodding towards an archway, she continued, "The Faculty Office is right there to the left." She looked around, smiling wanly at the older woman behind the snack bar, and reached down to tug off her own shoes. "And that concludes the tour!" With a grunt, she pulled her feet free and slipped on her slippers as she straightened up once more. "Do you have any questions before I go?"
Minato shrugged. "No, not really."
He felt her stiffening above him, and glanced up curiously. The brunette suddenly looked nervous, the cheer from earlier having vanished. "Hey," she said, in a hushed tone, "about last night… don't tell anyone what you saw, okay?" The smile reappeared on her face, and suddenly she sang, "See you later!" and dashed off before he could ask any questions.
What I saw? he thought to himself as he made his way slowly towards the Faculty Office. She doesn't mean… the coffins? He shuddered at the memory as he pushed what he hoped what was the right door open.
No sooner had he stepped inside than a woman in a peach-coloured suit strode over, clutching a clipboard to her chest. "Oh, are you the new student?" she said, brushing a lock of her short brown hair behind one ear. He nodded his head wordlessly, and she glanced down at her papers. "Arisato Minato… eleventh grade, correct?" Her eyebrows soared up into her hair as she read on. "Wow, you've lived in a lot of different places. Hm, let's see… in 1999, that was, what? Ten years ago? Your parents—"
A deeply apologetic expression shattered the teacher's emotionless mask, and she looked up with a start. "I'm sorry," she said honestly. "I've been so busy, I didn't have time to read this beforehand." She held out a hand for him to shake. "I'm Ms. Toriumi. I teach Composition. Welcome to our school."
He half-heartedly met her handshake, forcing a smile for her sake. "Nice to meet you," he said weakly.
She smiled warmly, and he knew she'd been fooled. "Wow, such enthusiasm!" Ms. Toriumi said with a little laugh. "Now, have you seen the classroom assignments? You're in 2-F; that's my class." A quick glance at her watch landed a hand on his back as she steered him firmly towards the door. "But first, we need to go the auditorium. The Welcoming Ceremony will be starting soon. Follow me."
"As you begin the new school year," the elderly principal preached from his podium, "I'd like each of you to remember the proverb, 'If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well.' When applied to student life, this means…"
Even though the ceremony had barely been going on two minutes, Minato was already bored to tears. Desperate, he reached into his bag for his trusty headphones and MP3 player, clapping one hand over his mouth to muffle a yawn as he did so. There were so many students in the massive theatre that he was sure no one would notice him listening. He had just retrieved them when there was a sharp pat on his shoulder from behind.
"Hey," a voice hissed, and Minato turned to see a boy with cropped black hair waving at him. "You came to school with Yukari this morning, right?"
The blue-haired boy shrugged his shoulders, and couldn't help but wonder why the young man thought it was any of his business.
The classmate was undeterred by Minato's unwilling attitude, and instead persisted, "I saw you two walking together. Hey, I have a question." An excited smirk spread over the junior's face. "Do you know if she has a boyfriend?"
Minato shrugged, wholly uninterested. "I don't know," he answered blandly.
The boy fell back, disappointment clear in his movements. "I see," he mused. "I thought you might know, but… I guess not." Suddenly, he leaned forward again, nudging at the new student's back. "So, how well do you know her?"
Displeased by his classmate's insinuations, Minato turned back to the front just as the teacher from another class chimed in with, "I hear talking. I believe it's someone in Ms. Toriumi's class…"
At the front, the teacher in question stood up and gestured angrily for her students to settle down. The bothersome boy lurched back in his seat before she could see him. "Shh!" she snapped. "Be quiet! You're going to get me in trouble!"
The rest of the day passed in a blur of long hallways that all looked the same, and faceless teachers that said the same thing over and over again. Minato lost count of the times he got lost in Gekkoukan's winding corridors, and barely managed to get back to his homeroom before for the last bell rang. Exhausted, he sat slumped at his desk—practically front and centre, exactly where he didn't want to be—and groped in his bag for his music. He had just found his MP3 player and was making towards the exit when he was intercepted by an unfamiliar face.
"'Sup, dude?" said the newcomer, a tall young man sporting a baseball cap and an unshaven chin. "How's it goin'?"
Minato didn't crack a smile. "What do you want?"
The boy frowned. "Oh, come on," he exclaimed dramatically. "At least let me introduce myself!" Minato didn't make any move to leave, which his strange classmate took as a good sign. "I'm Iori Junpei. Nice to meet you!" Grinning, he added, with a proud puff of the chest, "I transferred here when I was in eighth grade. I know how tough it is bein' the new kid, so I wanted to say, 'hey!' See what a nice guy I am?"
At that moment, a familiar brunette in a bright pink sweater wandered over. Junpei's smile grew even wider at the sight of her, and he tipped his hat in her direction. "Hey, it's Yuka!" She scowled at the nickname, and he offered her an exaggerated wink. "I didn't think we'd be in the same class again."
Yukari sighed and crossed her arms over her chest. "At it again, huh?" she said, sticking her nose in the air. "I swear, you'll talk to anyone if they'll listen. Did you ever think you might be bothering someone?"
Junpei adopted a wounded look, flinging a hand over his heart. "What?" he said, and real incredulity rang in his tone. "But I was just bein' friendly!"
The young woman hid a smile and said lightly, "If you say so." She turned to Minato, beaming. "Anyway," she continued, pointedly drowning out Junpei's protests, "it looks like we're in the same homeroom."
The blue-haired boy nodded. "Yeah, I know."
Yukari let out a little giggle. "Funny, huh?" she said, even though it wasn't.
Forgotten in light of their conversation, the exasperated Junpei threw up his hands. "Um, hello?" he said, only half joking. "Are you forgetting that I'm in this class, too?" Suddenly, however, he seemed to remember something, and a wide smirk spread across his stubbly face. "By the way, I heard you two came to school together this morning. What's up with that? C'mon, gimme the dirt!"
Minato, still unsure of whether or not he liked this loud new classmate of his, couldn't suppress a smile as, beside him, Yukari began to turn the same shade of pink as her sweater.
"Wh-what are you talking about?" she snapped, agitated. "We live in the same dorm. There's nothing going on, okay?" Nervous, she shot a surreptitious glance over her shoulder at a collection of girls that stood chattering in a huddle behind her, and rubbed at her temples tiredly. "Why are people even talking about it? Now you've got me worried."
She shook her head dismissively and leaned close to Minato, unaware of how every move she made was making the gossip worse. "Hey," she whispered under her breath, "you didn't say anything to anyone about… you know what, did you?"
Minato felt Junpei perk up beside him and rolled his eyes, shaking his head no.
Yukari leaned back, relieved. "Okay, good," she said. "Seriously," she added, just for good measure, "don't say anything about last night, all right?"
Junpei jerked back, like he'd been hit, his eyes widening to the size of veritable dinner plates as his eyebrows disappeared underneath the lip of his cap. The brunette turned to stare at him, nervous again. "Wh-what?" she mumbled.
And the young man exclaimed, in a much louder voice than was absolutely necessary, "L-last night?"
Yukari's face had surpassed her pullover by now, and had progressed to a colour that greatly resembled the crimson ribbon tied to her collar. "W-wait a minute!" she gasped, horrified at her slip. "Don't get the wrong idea! Listen!" she insisted, when Junpei made no move to pay any attention to her. "I just met him yesterday, and there's absolutely nothing between us!"
Even Minato was starting to redden at her outburst. He weakly tried to mollify her, but she would have none of it.
"Geez," Yukari huffed, turning away. "I've gotta go. I've got something to take care of for the archery team. But you better not start any rumours!" With that, she flounced out; one could practically see the steam spouting from her ears as she slammed the door closed behind her.
"Ah, who cares?" Junpei sighed when she was gone. "No one takes rumours seriously, anyway. She's so paranoid." He let out a laugh and adjusted his hat, pulling it low on his forehead. "But, hey! It's your first day here, and people are already talkin' about you!" With a snort, he clapped Minato on the back. "Believe it or not, she's actually pretty popular."
Grinning, Junpei threw his arms up, locking them together behind his head. "Heh, this is gonna be a fun year. I can feel it!"
Minato flopped into bed the moment he got home, with Yukari soon to follow. Soon only Mitsuru was left in the lounge, curled up on the couch with a book in her hands and a cup of hot cocoa on the table.
She wasn't alone long before a tall and confident-looking young man with a head of short silvery hair came down the stairs to join her, his jacket slung over his shoulder. "I'm going out for a bit," he told her shortly.
Mitsuru reluctantly closed her book and looked up. "Hm?" she asked.
The boy gestured to the sheaf of paper on the coffee table. "Didn't you see the newspaper?" he asked, unable to keep a hint of excitement out of his voice. "There's a lot going on."
The redhead bit back a sigh. "I know," she murmured, reaching for her mug of hot chocolate and taking a tiny, tentative sip. "People who had no problems before are suddenly developing acute cases of Apathy Syndrome. I've seen it in the news quite often lately. They say it's due to stress, but…"
"Yeah, right," the pale-haired young man snorted, triumph glittering in his dark gaze. "It has to be them. Otherwise, it's not worth my time."
Mitsuru rolled her eyes and sat back as her friend strode past. "You," she said accusatorily, "have a one-track mind. Will you be okay on your own? The Chairman will be here for the next few days, but after that, I can—"
"Don't worry," he exclaimed dismissively, already halfway to the door as he pulled on a pair of gleaming boxing gloves. "I'm just getting a little practise."
Mitsuru sighed heavily and picked up her book again. "This isn't a game, Akihiko," she snapped as the door shut behind him.