Nights in Shirakawa
- - -
Minato stared with saucer-wide eyes, hoping he had mis-heard what the lady in blue had just requested of him.
He gulped, then dared to ask:
"Wh-where…did you say…you wanted to go?"
The smiling, tall silver-haired woman did not show even the slightest embarrassment or subtlety in repeating her request.
"I would like you to accompany me in touring the Shirakawa Boulevard."
For a moment, the whole Velvet Room hung limp in absolute silence as light streams streaked briefly across the name-sake floors as it rose like an elevator to an unspoken destination. Few things could rattle Minato Arisato's steel-tough nerves. But the odd Velvet room attendant's latest "request" had done just that.
The blue-haired young man looked to Igor for much needed assistance, but the old hunch-back simple sat, his eyes staring amusedly across his folded hands, watching with delighted interest as to how his guest would maneuver through this little dilemma.
Minato's attention turned back to the naively gleaming apprentice. Her smile didn't falter and hint of what could only be judged as excitement was played out across her features. Minato was desperate to comprehend it all. "Why?" he gawked.
She giggled. "To learn more of your world of course Minato-san!"
On other…dates he had gone on with Elizabeth, she had demonstrated her clear lack of any knowledge of the world through small, but comical gestures. Sometimes embarrassing, but comical none the less.
This however was dangerous. Very dangerous.
Minato disparately racked his head, looking for any exit possible from this doomed venture.
The silver-haired woman cocked her head quizzically. Her eyes seemed to search him, as if carefully evaluating what the young man was thinking at the moment. "Is something wrong Minato-san?"
Never before was her naivety of the ways of the world clearer than now.
"Isn't there somewhere else you'd rather go?" he hopefully offered, his brain searching for an alternative itself desperately.
A sad look crossed her face. "Do you mean… you will not go with me?" Elizabeth sadly inquired. She almost looked to be on the verge of tears.
One of Minato's very few weaknesses.
"No! No I-I mean- I…uh-well…um…"
He sighed, and hung his head in defeat. There was no getting out of this one.
"When would you like to go?"
- - -
The moment the Velvet door closed behind him, Minato's back and head fell against it with a bang.
"Great," he mumbled. Where had she even heard of Shirakawa Boulevard?
One trip there was all he felt he could take, even without the shadows playing with his head.
He checked his watch. 7:00 PM. He had been in the Velvet Room for an hour? Already the lights of the Paulownia Mall started to illuminate the twilight hour that was now descending onto the city.
He couldn't even remember why he had entered the Velvet Room in the first place now. The moment he had walked through the door, Elizabeth had not even given him the chance to announce why he was there but excitedly announced her latest request.
Elizabeth had the strangest wishes: Swords, dolls, eating fourteen meals within an afternoon, why couldn't he just take her out for coffee?
With a sigh, Minato forced himself to stand upright and checked his watch once more. He still had a little time to kill at Game Panic. He needed something to numb his overheating brain.
- - -
The usual routine was in full swing at the S.E.E.S. Dorm tonight. Yukari had her legs folded beside her on the couch with her eyes scanning the pages of her book while Fuuka sat beside her with her laptop.
Akihiko meanwhile sat alone in the big easy chair with a book on American boxing open.
"Has anybody seen Aigis?" The boxing captain suddenly asked.
"I think she was looking for Minato-san again," Fuuka answered. "…She always seems to be doing that."
Yukari rolled her eyes. "I hadn't noticed," she sarcastically replied.
"Ah, jealous are we?" Junpei playfully jabbed as he swaggered into the room.
The girl looked up in shock, and then her eyes narrowed in annoyance. "Zip it STUPEI!" Yukari glowered.
"Will you STOP calling me that!" The insulted boy cried.
A mere "hmph" was all the brunette gave in response.
"Anyways," he went on as he dropped into the other easy chair opposite Akihiko, "You know I've never really seen him dating anyone. At least not from school."
"He's probably too busy," Akihiko answered.
Junpei grinned. "Or…" He paused dramatically. "He's looking for someone…older."
The odd comment was enough to draw all three attentions in the room to him.
"Who knows?" Junpei shrugged. "Maybe he's into older women."
Yukari almost dropped her book. "What?!" she cried. "What are you talking about?!"
Junpei held his hands up in defense, his eyes closed as if to show some kind of calm stance. "Relax, I don't know for SURE. I'm just saying, he always seems to be kinda reserved for a guy his age."
He peeked an eye open. "You know older women appreciate that," he grinned slyly.
Yukari couldn't take another word.
"Stop it Junpei!" Yukari cried. "He is NOT like that! He's not like…well…you!"
Junpei's eyes widened. "Hey now! I WISH I could get that kind of attention!" His eyes turned to the ceiling in thought and a cheeky grin formed on his face. "So late getting back…" He sighed. "Who knows…he's probably with her right now."
Poor Fuuka was blushing furiously. "J-Junpei-kun…"
Yukari was horrified. Terrible, HORRIBLE images found their way into her now vulnerable mind. Was Minato really…No….NO! It wasn't true!
The large front door creaked open. "I'm home," the topic of the night's conversation announced.
"Hey, where've you been?" Akihiko asked.
"Just the arcade," Minato replied as he made a beeline for the kitchen.
"I bet," Junpei grinned and gave an all knowing wink to Yukari.
Trying her best to calm down from the discussion that had just finished, a fierce blush had reddened Yukari's cheeks as the result of her frustration. Her eyes followed Minato as he moved for the refrigerator, no doubt looking for a yogurt. With a small huff of anxiety, she swung her legs to the floor and marched after Minato.
"U-Um…Minato-kun…" Yukari asked.
"Uh-huh?" The blue-haired boy replied without looking as pulled out a small carton of one of his few indulgences from the refrigerator. And this indulgence came with a blueberry flavor.
"I need to ask you something…kind of personal," the girl asserted somewhat nervously.
"Uh-huh?" Minato half-consciously repeated, not really paying attention as he reached above for a cupboard looking for a spoon.
"Are you…seeing an…an older woman?!" Yukari forced the last two words out.
The cupboard door slammed right into Minato's face with a loud smack, sending the yogurt cup flying and landing him right on his back.
The fall was hard enough to make everyone in the living room jump.
"Minato-kun!" Fuuka cried as she scampered into the kitchen to find him flat on the floor rubbing his head.
"Ungh…" the boy groaned. "Uh..Wh-..What now?!" his voice almost broke with disbelief.
""U-Um…" The Yukari nervously mumbled, holding her hands close to her chest. "Have you been dating…someone who's…" she seemed embarrassed to finish. "…older than you?"
Minato's eyes were as wide as saucers. Did they know?...Did they know?! How the hell did they know?!
"But I guess," she continued. "You just answered my question there, huh?"
Minato's eyes widened even more as panic took over. "N-No!" Frantically looked to the cabinets then felt his sore forehead. "I-I was-just, well…"
The dangerous look that was beginning to transform on Yukari's face warned Minato to answer. His brain struggled to think under the dangerous brunette's increasingly narrowed gaze. Should he come clean? Or could he lie his out of it?
"So you are seeing someone, aren't you?!" Yukari demanded. "Someone who isn't…appropriate?!"
"W-Where is this coming from anyway?!" Minato demanded. "Out of the blue like this?!"
Yukari nervously fidgeted with her fingers. "W-well, you see… Junpei said that you might be, well…interested in women more…" she blushed. "Experienced."
Minato stood dumbstruck. He even almost laughed out loud.
"F-From Junpei?" He looked over to the living room to find Junpei eyebrows ginning like a villain; clearly having the time of his life as the little drama unfolded.
He turned his attention back to the momentarily faulted Yukari, and now felt much more confident. "You…LISTENED…to Junpei?"
The room soaked in dead silence. Yukari didn't register what the young man was implying, and then became furiously embarrassed as it dawned on her.
Her face, now reddened from embarrassment, turned and zeroed on Junpei. It was the "clown" of the group's turn to feel the fear of the full weight of Yukari's wrath bearing down on him.
"N-Now wait a sec," Junpei stumbled as he rose from his chair, now not so sure of his personal safety. "I-I didn't say-"
"YOU'RE THE ONE WHO TRICKED ME INTO THINKING THAT-THAT…" Yukari hotly accused.
Fuuka suddenly felt the need to intervene. "Now just wait Yukari-chan…" the small girl nervously mediated.
Feeling the blessing of being forgotten momentarily, Minato sighed with fatigue, almost collapsing to the floor again.
At least he had dodged one bullet today.
The day replayed itself in his head like a bad movie. Elizabeth's…."request," Junpei's rumors, Yukari's little…Yukari's little…
What a day. What a life.
"I wanna sleep," he mumbled to nobody.
He watched with slight satisfaction of Junpei now being scared of the hot-tempered Yukari, who looked just about ready to pounce and pummel the idiot. Nobody would be going to Tartarus tonight.
Minato look to ceiling, as if looking for some sign from above. Was his long day finally over?
"Minato-san, I have located you."
His jerked around at the sound of his name. Staring straight at him were the robotic blue irises of the team's resident anti-shadow robot….less than 3 inches from his face.
"Yah!" Minato leapt back with a yip. "Aigis!"
It had become somewhat of a habit of the said android to "surprise him" from behind.
"Minato-san?" Her mostly hollow eyes showed concern with her eyebrows turned up. "Something is wrong?" Concern was detectable in her mostly still sporadic, artificial voice. Aigis again moved in on Minato.
"U-Um…" The boy mumbled as he tried vainly at keeping space between the two of them, only to back into the wall behind her. His eyes looked left and right, and just now Minato realized the stupid position he had put himself in:
A wall to his left, and the bar to his right, he had absolutely no escape as Aigis leisurely walked down the narrow floor way towards him.
He had walked right behind the bar and trapped himself. And Aigis still had yet to learn the human concepts of "modesty" and "personal space."
"Uh, Aigis? What are you-"
He was effectively silenced as the tips of her fingers gently touched his forehead.
"You are injured," Aigis observed as her fingers gently traced down the dark bruise that had formed on Minato's forehead. "How did this happen?"
Yukari was briefly distracted from her assault on Junpei at what she thought was the sound of Aigis' voice. Sure enough, there was Aigis…within kissing distance from Minato…touching him.
The android calmly turned her gaze to the fuming brunette. "Yukari-chan?"
"Wh-When did you get here?" Her eyes seared at the three fingers that still gently connected with Minato's forehead. "And what do you think you're doing to him?!"
"He has been injured." Aigis turned her attention back to the wound on Minato's forehead, examining it more closely now. "I assume," she jerked her head in Junpei's direction, a fierce anger present on her face. "That YOU are responsible for this!"
"M-Me?!" Junpei stumbled back now feeling himself in the female android's deadly crosshairs. "W-What makes you think I did anything?!"
"You are the one who is often responsible for many of his physical injuries." Aigis' accusing finger aimed like a laser pointer. "You are not good for him."
"Hey come on now!" Junpei cried in defense, not too comfortable at where his standing with two of the girls in S.E.E.S. was going. "All I-"
"In any case," Aigis interrupted, once again giving her full undivided attention to her cornered prey. "I mess tend to this and any other wounds you may have."
Without so much as a blink, she began to undo the upper button of his shirt.
"Um…" Minato mumbled as he looked with confusion at Aigis' hands working on his shirt. "What are you doing?"
"I must check for any more wounds you may have received," she replied as her fingers successfully undid the first button and moved for the second. "Please undress Minato-san."
Minato stared, his brain barely processing.
With and inner strength he did know that existed, Minato somehow had managed to hurl his whole body over the bar…and crash right into the stools. A rather noisy crash resounded through the lounge and Minato rather semi-gracefully rolled to his feet, only to spin around and fall on his back.
Any pain he may have felt didn't take priority in his head as getting away from the crazy robot did.
"EXCUSE ME?!" Minato's voice nearly broke. "You want me to WHAT?!"
"Minato-san!" Aigis fast-tracked her way around the bar to the fallen boy, only to be stopped dead in her tracks by a furiously blushing Yukari.
"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!" the girl screeched.
Aigis' head turned quizzically, as if it was the simplest thing. "I must tend to his wounds Yukari-chan." the robot innocently explained.
"How does that involve STRIPPING HIM?!" the brunette hotly demanded. Her arms were outstretched, as if shielding Minato from Aigis.
"He may have more injuries; and I must attend to-"
"It's none of your BUSINESS!" Yukari shot back.
"But it is Yukari-chan," Aigis reasoned. "I wish to protect him and remain by his side forever."
Akihiko's attention had been briefly drawn from his book and turned to watching Yukari and Aigis. The end of his lip couldn't help but turn up slightly at seeing the rather comical duo in their heated contest.
Ever since Minato showed up, everything was changing.
The boxer glanced down at his feet, seeing the yogurt cup that Minato had tried in vain to enjoy. Somehow it had survived the perilous throw across two rooms and landed at his feet undamaged.
He picked it up, turning it over and eyeing it thoughtfully. Akihiko looked to where Minato had fallen and chuckled.
The blue-haired youth had already snuck away.
His thoughts were confirmed with the sound of the front door gently clicking shut.
- - -
The monotonous music that played every night had become a form of mental therapy for the old monk. That combined with enriched scent of his cigar pervading the air and Jin held between his thumb and finger created a bliss that let him escape the woes of his reality.
He sighed and leaned his head back, revealing in his intoxicating fantasy. It somewhat bugged him though, that HE wasn't here tonight. Though he wasn't sure when, that odd kid that kept showing up had kinda grown on him. Why wasn't here yet?!
Heavy footsteps coming up the stairs caught his attention. He smirked.
Speak of the devil.
Minato led out a grunt as practically collapsed on the large pillow sofa.
"You're late," the old monk gruffly welcomed.
"Save it old man," Minato grumbled. "It's been a long day."
"Who ya calling old?!" the monk protested.
Minato only sighed in response. The monk eyed him curiously. Then he grinned.
"Having girl problems, eh kid?"
Minato's head jerked, his eyes wide. "Wh-WHAT?!"
The old monk bellowed out a laugh. "Don't trying lying kid, I've seen it all before!"
From the grin on his all knowing wrinkled face, Minato knew denying it would be useless. He resigned with a sigh and fell back into the pillows.
The old man waited patiently. "Wanna talk about it?"
Minato's hands ran down his face as he exhaled rather loudly. "Not really…"
The monk chuckled softly as he sipped his Jin. "Trust me kid, whatever it is; it's not worth getting upset over."
Minato let out a gruff sigh…and then smirked. Why not have some fun with him? The old man would forget everything the next morning with the hangover that was destined to ensue from a night at the Escapade.
"This girl wants to check out Shirakawa."
The little bit of Jin that had passed through the monk's lips was spat out in a fizz, followed by a violent cough.
"Wh-cough-WHAT?!" the monk's eyes were wide as saucers. "SHE'S the one that wants you to go to SHIRAKAWA?! Who is she?! TELL ME!"
Oh yes, Minato thought, it was definitely the priceless look on the monk's face that made it worth telling.
"Damn…" the monk gawked. "…lucky little brat…" The envy was all too evident in his voice.
"Well," he cleared his throat, his characteristic, arrogant smirk once again played on his lips. "There's no way you can do this. No way I'll let ya kid. It's unethical! I need to make an honest man out of ya!"
Minato's wary eyeballs shifted in the old man's gleaming face. Here it came…
"It's MY duty," the monk stood up with pride. "To keep your path moral and straight!"
A toothy grin, surprising white and straight, nearly tore his face in two as he held out his hand. "So…if you would just be good and give me the little lady's phone number, I'll fix this whole for ya."
Minato ginned even wider. Why not milk it?
"She lives in an elevator," Minato fought valiantly to suppress a laugh.
The monk's smile dropped into a look of surprise. "She's homeless?"
"AH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!" Minato howled.
The monk wasn't too sure what had just happened, but hell he laughed too.
A few more giggle hiccupped from Minato's lips as he wiped the tears from his eyes. The old man sighed with satisfaction.
"Well you look a lot better than when you came in. Guess I've done my good deed for the day."
With a slight wobble in his step, the monk stumbled for the stairs down.
Minato chuckled slightly at the odd sight, closing his eyes as if to sleep as he lay back in the plush pillows of the large sofa.
"Hey kid…" the monk gently called.
Minato opened a single eye.
"IF YOU SCREW THIS UP, DON'T EVER SHOW YOUR SORRY BUTT AROUND HERE AGAIN!"
With a huff the grouchy old man tromped down the stairs. With a roll of his eyes, again Minato threw his head back, this time accidently into the wall behind him.
"Ugh!" His eyes scrunched shut at the pain. His hand reached behind, nursing the point of impact. Minato's eyes opened slightly, his vision slightly blurred as his mind became lost in the streams colored lights dancing in cadence with the music of the club.
- - -
His mind was playing with him.
Visions swam in and out of view. Lights and colors, meaningless shapes; nausea was awash in his mind, but never enough to drive him over the edge. He was in Limbo.
His eyes squeezed shut at the voice that boomed in his ears….
No….in his mind.
When he dared to peak, his vision had focused, revealing a dark lit room that bode a sense of familiarity. The deep violet accents of the room tugged at his memory.
He blinked. "When did I-AH!"
He gripped his head in pain.
The voice made him stand and his hand by pure reflex un-holstered his Evoker. His eyes squinted, trying to peer through the poor lighting to find the voice's owner.
He twirled around. The voice was everywhere and nowhere. His hand held his weapon in a death grip.
"Show yourself!" Minato shouted to the room. "Who are you?!"
"…I am you."
Instantly he was pulled to the bed behind him and stretched out flat on his back. Minato tried to stand again. He could not.
Nothing restrained him but yet his body felt as heavy as lead. He turned his head to his arm, trying to lift it but to no avail. The Evoker lay just barely out of reach of his fingers.
"Why resist?" The voice softly asked. "Is it not what you want? ….What you…desire?"
This voice… he had heard before.
He heard a door open ahead. He looked down past the end of the bed. A door in that had opened, spilling a pool of light into the black ocean. The figure that stepped out was clothed in nothing but a towel.
He remembered. Minato knew all too well the scenario that was playing out before him, like the rerun of an old movie. He knew what had happened…and what almost happened.
"Yukari?" he called out.
The shapely outline of the darkened figure was clearly that of a woman, but no features could help him discern who exactly.
The shadow turned to regard, then slowly began to march towards him.
"Y-Yukari," he suddenly blushed realizing the position he was in. His tried flex his arm, fighting to break it from the lull it had become encased in. His body simply ignored him. He could not even form a fist, his fingers only barely twitching.
The figure drew closer still, and Minato now felt his self-consciousness now turn to fear. Something was wrong. He felt helpless. The more frantically he begged his body to move, the less it seemed likely. He was trapped.
The figure steeped close to light.
Minato squinted his eyes. The figure's outline now made him doubt his original thought. The figure seemed…taller.
His eyes widened. It wasn't Yukari.
The woman before him had white hair, not brown. Rather than brown, her eyes were a luminous gold, shining like gems in the dark. Instead of pearl white towel…a blue dress
She was smiling. She was smiling that same kind smile she always did. But her eyes…
Her eyes held a look that was…foreign. Something behind those eyes made him fidget.
"Shhhhh…." A single gloved finger gently pressed to his lips.
Her golden eyes were shining, and Minato found himself swallowed up into them. Her eyes intimately searched his blue irises, as if reading everything that passed through his mind.
Minato's cheeks reddened with self-consciousness.
Elizabeth giggled. She seemed to know that he was trapped on the bed. And she was enjoying it.
"What is wrong…Minato-kun?" her soft voice was hypnotic, seductive even.
Her hands slowly reached down, touching his shoulders and moving down his arms, her eyes following as she affectionately ran them over his paralyzed form. Her hands stopped at his wrists, loosely gripping them. Her body lowered onto his, her lips noticeably brushing against his cheek.
"Minato-kun…." Her lips barely grazed his ear. "…Just relax…"
His entire face flushed jerked to the side, her soft touch driving him insane.
"E-Elizabeth-s-san…." Minato pressed his head as deep into the pillow as far as he could. "P-please..wait…"
Minato made a sharp gasp as her lips gently kissed his exposed neck. His desperate attempt to hold back the moan rising from his throat was in vain as Elizabeth's teeth gently nipped at his neck.
"Ah!" Every fiber in the blue-haired boy's body urged him to remain calm, but slowly he felt himself losing control.
He suddenly felt her lips leave his neck and her body rise above his. He turned his head, slightly unsure of what he would find.
The woman's lustful eyes and playful smile were gone. As if she had changed masks, her face now showed…concern?
What…happened to her voice?
The silver-haired girl shook his shoulders. Rather roughly.
"Minato-san! Minato-san! What is wrong?!"
Minato's eyes squeezed shut, and suddenly felt very heavy when opening them.
- - -
His blurred vision cleared rather quickly.
With one blink, Elizabeth was gone. Sunlight poured into his room, and Minato once again found feeling in his extremities. His feet were scrunched up into his body. Sometime during the night he had shuffled toward the bottom of his bed. He softly yawned as his body began to come alive again.
His clear vision showed the pair of hands shaking him actually belonged to Aigis…who was in his room…leaning over him with her face inches away.
"WOAH!" Minato legs shot his body backward on the bed out from underneath Aigis, his back flush against the headboard with his knees drawn up to his chest.
"A-Aigis?" Minato blinked, disbelieving. "What are you doing in my room at-" he looked at the alarm clock on his night stand which had yet to ring. "7:30? There's no school today."
"My scanners detected irregular patterns in your brainwaves. I also heard strange noises coming from your room," the girl innocently defended herself as she crawled onto the bed on hand and knees. Slowly pawing her way forward to him.
"Minato-san, I am concerned." The genuine compassion coming from her huge puppy-dog eyes froze Minato in place, dispelling any ridiculous notions of making a run for it. "Your unusual behavior has been most intriguing to me, and this night has further made evident my hypothesis of an abnormality to your regular day."
The android's eyes probed all about Minato's face, seeming not to take account of the extremely embarrassed, and slightly scared, look on it.
"As I suspected," Aigis self-confirmed, her finger thoughtfully pressed to her lower lip. "You seem to have experience a nightmare Minato-san."
Minato's eyes widened with horror. It was like she was reading his mind. He desperately pulled himself into a ball, wishing to vanish from existence. Mortified did not begin to describe his feelings.
"Minato-san," Her piercing gaze stabbed him right through his eye ball, giving him no place to look but her face. "I believe your dream may offer insight into what has caused your recent distress."
Her hands now rested on the boy's kneecaps, as if holding him in place from any escape.
"Minato-san," she said with complete assertiveness. "If you please, you must explain the happenings of your nightmare to me."
She leaned in over his knees into his face. "…in complete and intricate detail."
Minato's face had gone ghost white. It was like a prisoner getting the death sentence. It was like facing a firing squad.
Then again, death didn't seem so bad right now.
"H-How…" His voice was barely a whisper. "How…did you even get in? W-Wha…The deadbolt…I bought….for the door."
Aigis head turned slightly at the word "deadbolt," not seeming to comprehend the item's identity.
"My normal lock-picking skills were ineffective, and you did not respond to my numerous calls and knocks." Her head turned in the direction of the door. "So I…improvised."
Minato followed her gazed, his jaw dropping in result.
The door …there was no door.
Where a brown oak panel had once stood now was a gaping hole. Almost the entire door had been blown to splinters, as if a bomb had hit it. Now only a few chunks of wood hung from the now-pointless door hinges. The doorknob barely held on by its bolt, a charcoaled frame was all that barely remained and black cinder coated the floor.
It looked like the door had been attacked by a howitzer.
"Oh….my…." was all Minato could muster to say.
Soft footsteps could be heard padding down the carpeted hallway. Yukari's hand stopped midway as it reached for the doorknob, her eyes fixed on the hole that was large enough for her to step through.
"What in the….?" she whispered as she cautiously avoided the splintered edges. "Uh…Minato?" Their before her was Minato cornered at the head of his bed with Aigis stretched out her hands TOUCHING HIM AGAIN… and her face leaned in quite close to his.
The fact that every time Yukari had ever managed to locate Aigis, she was always hanging off of Minato was really beginning to get to her.
"What…What…?!" Her shaking finger pointed at her, then her whole body swinging around to again recognize the now non-existent door. "What…did you…do?"
Once again with a shameless demeanor, the android began to rattle. "At approximately twenty minutes, and three-point-eighty-six seconds before our current time-"
"I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT!" Yukari screeched. "What have you done?! What happened to the door?!"
Her eyes shifted to the timidly Minato hunkered into a ball. "AND WHAT IN GOD'S NAME ARE YOU DOING TO HIM?!"
Her hands balled into fists as her foot stamped the ground. "Why are you in his room?...on his BED?!"
"I am inquiring into matters that are intimately troubling to Minato." Aigis calmly answered. Her face turned back to regard him. "Which he was just about to tell me."
Yukari bared her fangs and her narrowed eyes spilled volumes of venomous jealously and evil. "…what?" she seethed through her teeth.
Her head turned to Minato, who was beginning to look more and more like something for her to pounce and pummel. "Is this true…Arisato? Is it?"
Both women looked at him expectantly.
None of the conversation, even Yukari's entrance into the room, at ever registered to Minato. His wide-eyed, slack-jawed face stared transfixed on the burnt-to-ash rubbish that had once been his door.
"H-How did I…sleep through that?" his soft voice held a hint of awe at the terrific destruction that must have come with and orchestra of racket that he had somehow completely ignored.
His face turned grim. "Mitsuru is not going to like this."
- - -
Minato face had grown hot as the silver-haired woman lead down deeper and deeper into the lane of Shirakawa Boulevard. The approaching night made way for neon signs hung about to begin lighting up the alley. His eyes stared forward intently so as to let his already shaky resolve fall prey to the signs' suggestive advertisements.
Minato had chosen to wear a lightweight coat with hood that he had absolutely no intentions of letting down so long as he was in public. Incognito was the name of the game.
And to quite a contrast, Elizabeth was taking it all in full stride.
"Such alluring colors give quite the suggestive wink for their audience, teasing them only a bit …and enticing to investigate further…" the woman's purring voice certainly did nothing to help calm Minato. "I am quite taken with this concept of…'advertising'".
Despite the dark road, no pun intended, that Elizabeth was leading the young man down; Minato did find a couple things to be grateful for that night. By some miraculous act of heaven, he had managed to slip out of the dorm without confronting anyone and having to explain himself. His mind shuttered to think what would have happened had he run into Yukari…or God forbid: Aigis.
Minato had become so lost in the scary scenarios playing in his head that he almost ran into Elizabeth when she stopped dead in her tracks, something catching her attention.
"I find something intriguing about THIS establishment." her voice held a hint of tease.
Minato looked up in curiosity, following her gaze to her point of interest.
The hotel…the same exact hotel the S.E.E.S. had battled the shadow. The same hotel he and Yukari had their little episode.
The same hotel…it was the same hotel…
Anything but this.
A grin was played across the lady in blue's face, which Minato could only interpret as a clue letting on that the Velvet Room attendant was fully aware of the past encounter he had here.
"Well then…" her voice playfully suggested. "Shall we go in?"
She did not wait for an answer as the confident woman led the way in with Minato following, privately wondering if this mystery lady had a network of secret cameras that watched his every move in life.
- - -
Their feet made pads against the carpet as Elizabeth marched them forward. She stopped briefly, her mystified eyes taking in her foreign surroundings.
"Such eloquent drapes and furniture, yet spacious room, leaving a sense of welcome and comfort at the same time," she pleasantly observed. "So this is…a lobby."
For a brief moment, Minato forgot his stress and actually allowed himself to take interest as his hand pushed hood on his jacket from his head. The atmosphere lobby had turned a full one-eighty since his last trip here. The lack of blood trailing down the walls and coffins standing about definitely gave the place a different feel. Of course the lack of biologically-engineered shadow creatures also contributed to that.
Elizabeth stared up at the large bank of monitors. Some showed a vision into empty rooms with large colorful beds, curtain walls, and plush carpets, while others only showed a black screen.
"A choice awaits the guest who wishes to reside here. They are shown a preview of wait available comforts await them, and then decide on which would most suit their desires."
Something in the way she spoke made every observation she made sound suggestive. It was a trait Minato had first picked up on during their first "date". At first, he found somewhat amusing. Now it was driving his hormones nuts.
"I think…" Elizabeth's hand hovered in the air with suspense. "I will choose…this one."
Minato desperately resisted the urge to slam his face into the wall. The room she chose…again…a place he had been to before. Minato knew a little bit about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He heard that revisiting a place where a horrible incident occurred could make a person relief their trauma. He wondered if that would be happening to him if he set foot back in the room where he and Yukari got a little too comfortable together.
The thought of PTSD made him think of a couple old Americans wearing drabby camouflage he had seen at Escapade once who were obviously drunk and yelling to each other about their time in "'Nam". He suddenly had a weird vision of himself sitting with them and sharing with them tales of his own horrors at "'Kawa".
The sound of an elevator ding shocked Minato out of his odd little fantasy world.
"I'm glad we came," a young man's voice came from the elevator. A woman's giggle followed.
Both sounded very familiar.
Minato peeked around the corner to where the elevator corridor was.
Stepping from one of the elevators was Kenji. Minato nearly tripped over his own two feet.
"No way…" Kenji…his Kenji from class. The same Kenji he had ramen with every Thursday. Kenji was here?!
And from behind said Kenji was…
"…Miss Toriumi…?" From school? The very teacher the all-wise school administration had entrusted his education to?
No…no….nonononononononooooo. This wasn't real. This had to be a nightmare. Kenji…Miss Toriumi…
How could this… his brain couldn't even…
Slowly Minato turned away, walking away from the approaching…couple.
Time stopped at the sound of his name. He didn't dare turn around.
Kenji voice sounded surprised.
"M-Mister Arisato?!" Miss Toriumi's horrified voice cry.
This wasn't happening. His blood ran cold and his legs almost began to shake. His forced gulp was very painful. So many things were wrong today.
Slowly, he carefully replaced the hood over his head in an almost ritual fashion…and then bolted for the door.
"Wait!" Kenji called.
Minato crashed through the front doors and dashed right. Immediately he jumped and rolled to the right, landing into a smaller alley that led only to a dead end with a dumpster sitting against one of the walls..
He dashed down the short alley and half-slid behind the large green hulk of metal, hunkering himself into a ball, hiding himself from view as best he could.
He listened to the two sets of running feet grow louder as they approached. They stopped briefly at the alley's opening before dashing off again down the street.
"HEY MINATO!" Kenji yelled again, his voice growing faint as he ran farther and farther away.
Minato watched them go, peaking around the corner of the alley.
Good God… Miss Toriumi…. How did Kenji pull this one off?
His hand ran down his face, groaning as he imagined what the next school day would be like for the three of them.
He turned back around, aiming for the hotel once again. The hell with tomorrow, he still had to get through tonight.
- - -
He pulled the door open, his head hung.
"Sorry 'bout that," Minato rubbed his head sheepishly. "Those two-"
"C'mon babe, 'ill be fuuun!" the slurred voice made Minato look up.
A Minato looked up to see that a rather large man gripping Elizabeth roughly by the wrist. His flushed face and dumb grin clearly announced his drunken status. Elizabeth's frown (which Minato had never seen before) made clear her disgust.
Minato had actually half expected this. It didn't take a genius to know what caliber of people lurked through the streets in a place like Shirakawa. Minato also knew exactly how to deal with such people and had come prepared.
Without making a sound, his hand smoothed off the hood on his head and quietly approached the two people.
"As I just said," Elizabeth's voice held an icy tone. "I am waiting for someone."
The man snorted. "Mustn't be too good a man to leave such a fine piece like you alone." His eyes shamelessly sized her up. "A REAL man would know how to treat ya."
He sniffed, and with his free hand pointed to himself. "A man like me."
"Let go," Elizabeth coldly spat, her free hand striking his.
The drunk had look of surprise, which quickly fell into a scowl.
"Little bitch!" the man gripped her slender pale arms with his bulging hands, grinning cynically. "Quite a mouth you got there!...I'll haffta show ya how to use it."
Elizabeth snarled as the man's grip tightened.
"Wipe that look off your fuckin' face!" he half-shouted. "We're gonna have fun."
"Hands off clown." A voice growled from behind.
The drunkard's face turned, only to have it nearly snapped as blurred strike sent him flying into the wall, breaking his nose in the process.
"Ugh…" the man looked up at his attacker, who barely looked old enough to shave.
"The fuck's you're problem kid?!"
Minato's face was completely emotionless as he stared straight into the man's eyes. A small mini-Maglight dropped from the kid's hand, which explained why his strike had hurt so badly.
The broken-nosed brute scooted back before getting up, scowling and holding his broken nose.
"Get lost." Minato spat spitefully.
"So this the guy?!" the man laughed. "You gotta be fuckin shittin me!"
His hand dropped from his bloody nose, and cracked his knuckles. "Trust me kid, that bitch way outta your league." Slowly he advanced. Minato didn't budge.
"I think it's time you walked away kid."
With cold precision, Minato's hand flew into his jacket and back out again, his evoker in hand aimed straight at the man's head.
The man stopped cold. "Wh-What the-?!" he half-laughed, falling back onto his butt. His eyes were as wide as saucers. "That can't actually be-"
Minato's thumb cocked the hammer and the man's face went from shock to horrified. "Y-You can't-?! NO! DON'T! P-PLEASE!!" He threw his hands up, shielding his face.
Minato drew his arm up, and struck the man in the temple with the hilt of the gun. With a groan, he fell unconscious.
Minato sighed with annoyance, giving the man a soft kick to ensure he was out. He turned to Elizabeth. "Are you alright?"
Elizabeth had watched the confrontation play out, and was rather impressed with its close. The man was larger than Minato and obviously more powerfully built. But in the end it had all voided in the face of Minato's aggressive nature.
"Indeed." Her smile had returned and it was impossible to miss the impressed look in her eyes. She curiously observed the evoker in his hand.
"Such bold composure, and yet a clever tactic," she complimented. "You're quite a special case Minato-kun." She emphasized the honorific with a grin. "I can see why so many take interest in you. Specifically…those of the female complex."
Her hand reached out and gently lowered the weapon held in his hand. "But tonight…Minato-kun…" She smiled. "Only I…will come to know you better."
- - -
The elevator doors closed behind Minato as he stepped off the elevator behind Elizabeth. Their resounding shut and the perky little "ding" that accompanied left a resounding tone of defeat in Minato. There was no way out now…and he knew it.
His anxiety climbed and climbed as he felt the room their feet seemed to automatically hone in on drawing closer and closer. All the while, hoping beyond hope the reason she had taken him here was not the one he thought.
She was only curious, right? She only wanted to see what the place was like. this was just another tour. maybe she want to be alone with him…SO THEY COULD TALK! Just talk! Right?
The Velvet Room resident stopped abruptly mid-stride just before turning the corner to the room. Her eye immediately captured his and held him at complete attention. She turned to face him and pulled out his hand placing the room key in his palm. "Please continue on. I must now attend to the ritual of "freshening up."
"Sure." he nodded, Grateful for any chance he could to mentally cool himself off.
She waited for him to leave around the corner before turning around, heading back the way she came before. As she stepped passed the elevator doors, the "dinged" open.
She didn't even flinch when she was roughly grabbed by the wrist and twirled around.
After her back slammed against the wall, once again she found herself staring into the face of the brute that she had encountered before. Her eyes and face soured, but she could not help but smirk at the dark bruise that had accumulated on the man's temple from the strike from Minato's evoker.
"Well Well Well…" the man's darkened voice chuckled.
Elizabeth eyed him with contempt. "You are annoyingly persistent."
The slap whipped her head. Her cheek stung slightly from the strike. Her teeth bared in rage at the man's audacious attitude.
"Damn that mouth, bitch!" the man snarled. After a few moments of seething, his face returned to the smug it had before. "Seems your little boyfriend couldn't take the heat."
He leaned in close to her ear. "But I sure can…"
Elizabeth giggled…then chuckled darkly. The man's head drew back in surprise.
"Arrogant, little human."
She looked up at him, her face now grinning with a dark delight and her eyes dancing with a foreboding storm in them.
"That man would not bother to waste a second punch on you."
Her hand shot out, gripping him by his mouth and lifting him into the air with arm outstretched as if he weigh nothing. The man's screams were muffled by her hand and his dangling feet kicked widely as he tried to process just what was happening to him.
The man's eyes widened in horror as he watched the woman's yellow irises turn to blood red, all the while her sinister smile remaining.
"Am not so picky…"
He was flung into the wall. His hands uselessly grabbed at his iron-strong hand, trying in vain to move it the bone crushing force that made his jaw feel like it would snap.
His strength died in the sea of terror that flooded his mind as she stepped in close and her teeth bore once more. His pupils dilated at the seeing what could only be described as fangs.
Elizabeth cranked the man's neck so it exposed to her. She leaned in, her bared teeth parting.
One last muffled scream emitted from his throat as her teeth sank and violently tore through the flesh of the man's neck. In the empty hallway, Elizabeth drank the man's blood.
From the around the corner where Elizabeth had left him, Minato had quietly watched the whole incident play out before his own two eyes.
- - -
Elizabeth paused for a moment at the door that was ajar by a crack. Her gloved finger felt over her lips, checking to be sure she had left no evidence of her actions.
With a soft exhale, she pushed door open and walked in. Minato was sitting on the bed; his coat removed and laid over the chair sitting at the dresser.
"Did you wait long?" she asked without looking at Minato. She had walked purposefully to the dresser in the room, trying her best to look busy with undoing her earrings.
There was no answer for a moment.
"Are you okay?"
Her eyes widened slightly. "What?"
She looked at him from the corner of her eye. His face said it all. He had seen. He had watched her…
She stopped, he hands lowering slowly.
"You saw then?" she quietly asked.
"…Yeah…" he replied.
Her eyes stared down at the floor. "Indeed…I am what humans would best describe as a vampire."
Her eyes rose from the ground to regard him. "You do not seem surprised."
His face did not falter from its totally calm image. "Nothing really surprises me anymore."
It should have, but it didn't. Hell if biologically engineered monsters and a group of high school kids could duke it out during a twenty-fifth hour of the day, what wasn't possible?
The room was silent for a few moments before she spoke again.
"Are you now afraid of me Minato-kun?" Minato was taken back at the sad look in her eye, quite the far cry from the blood-thirst he had seen only a few moments ago. "…Disgusted?"
The words made him stand up. "What?! Why would I-…why would I ever think any of that?"
She looked away. "I have lived for many years Minato. Many more than you know. And I have seen what a recognition of difference will make living being do to one another."
A small smile appeared.
"But you seemed different. I had always hoped, and even maybe knew already, that you would accept me for myself." Her head rose and looked him in the eyes. "For that is simply who you are Minato-san."
Minato blushed and looked away.
"Minato." He looked up at the sound of his name, falling back on the bed with surprise at seeing Elizabeth move so close to him so quickly without making a sound. She a took a seat next to him on the bed.
"Do you know why it is I asked you to come with me to this place?"
"Err-Um….w-well…" Minato stuttered to answer.
The woman adjusted herself on the bed, leaning on her hands as she looked him in the eye. "Minato-kun…"
The blush that had before colored his face a healthy vermillion now drained to pale white. His eyes widened in fear at seeing the blood-red pigment resurge in her irises.
"WHOA! W-Wait!" Minato almost fell backwards. He pushed himself backwards on his hands.
"Minato," her voice saddened at seeing the look in his eye. Her eyebrows fell a little and she raised an open hand. "Please do not be afraid."
He hand gently caressed his cheek and softly threaded into his hair. "I would never harm you."
Minato said nothing, but his lowered tension was noticeable. She smiled; a much kinder smile than what she had revealed to the poor fool who now lay in the hallway Minato noted.
Her hand slid from the side his face, and then to his shoulder, then to his arm, softly gripping it. "To take a person's blood Minato," Elizabeth explained. "Is the way in which I sustain myself…" she looked away. "As you have just witnessed."
"What I want Minato…" her head rose to meet his gaze once more. "I want your blood Minato."
He stared disbelieving, fear once again rising in the pit of stomach. "My…blood…?" he whispered.
She nodded. "Blood is how I live, but there is another reason I want yours…" Now it was her turn to blush. "I wish for it so as to come to know you better."
A confused looked tugged at Minato's facial curves.
"I can tell…" Elizabeth explained. "Much from the taste of a person's blood."
The phrase made something click in Minato's mind.
The word rolled over in his head. "What…" he cautiously asked. "Does it tell you exactly?"
Elizabeth knew where the conversation was taking them. "It can tell me…many things."
Beliefs, memories, feelings, weaknesses, these were just a few of the possibilities that set off alarm bells in Minato's mind. As both knew, Minato was by all means friendly, but not the most trusting of people. He had let very few people into his personal life.
He trusted very, very few people.
It was a characteristic many saw as a flaw in him, but one that he had felt kept him in well-being. But there were drawbacks, and Minato knew it.
"Minato," she at last spoke again. "I see this as something good for you too. I know what I ask is something that is difficult for you to deliver on your part."
He looked away, almost feeling a slight pinch of shame, but her hand guided him back to her gaze. "You mean so much to so many Minato Arisato. And all would be devastated if you were taken from us too soon."
Her ruby eyes blazed with what Minato could only describe as…love?
She leaned in close, and he could not help but tense at the close contact. She seemed to take notice of knee-jerk reaction attributed to his often loner mindset. "Minato-kun," Elizabeth softly whispered. "Your strength is what so many people rely on you for, and so you must never surrender to your enemies." Her lips barely grazed his ear. "However…you should not feel fear or shame…to surrender to your loved ones."
Minato said nothing for a moment, then closed his eyes in acceptance, and waited with nervousness for her to bite. He was quite taken a back at what she did choose to do.
Instead, she pressed her lips against his.
He moaned in surprise for a moment, and then fell into tranquility at her touch. His eyes closed in bliss and one of his arms wrapped around her back, pulling her close. He moaned softly in ecstasy.
His free arm pushed against the bed, raising himself up into her kiss, his other arm holding her close.
Elizabeth's hand reached for his jacket and pealed it down his shoulders, stopping at his elbow. She took hold of Minato's propped arm, pulling it out from under him, and sending him into the bed once more, her other arm holding him down by his shoulder.
Minato was taken back a little at her aggressive nature.
Finally she moved from his lips, dropping kisses along his neck and stopping just before she reached his shoulders and kissed him again.
Minato's eyes fluttered a little as his mind began to dance along the line between sleep and awake. Heavy intoxication flooded his senses, lulling him to euphoria.
He felt her grip on his shoulder firm and her other slide from his elbow to his shoulder, then slowly slide down his arm. Her fingers contoured to his arm, threading up into his palm.
She noticed a slight shaking in his hand as she placed her own inside. Pleasure had taken over most of him, but still a lingering sense of anxiety possessed him. Gently, her fingers threaded in between his and held his hand tight for assurance, his own fingers closed around her hand in reaction.
"I have waited for this…" she whispered.
Once more, she gave one long kiss to his neck, and then bit into his neck.
Minato softly grunted at the point of impact, his half-open eyes twitching at first, and then slowly started to relax. His tighten around her and she pressed his harder against the bed.
Elizabeth's eyes stayed closed as he slowly drew blood. Her hand on his shouldered moved up to his neck and then treading into his hair, messing it about.
Minato's fear had dissipated has the moments passed. Slowly he started to slip into unconsciousness…
- - -
The doors gave way to his push and the cool night air washed across his face.
Minato stood alone in the alley, breathing in the fresh cool air. Unconsciously he his fingers felt across the two small marks left on his neck as his eyes gazed skyward to the few stars that peeked through the black velvet sky.
Only a few sounds found their ways to his ears: the soft hum of an occasional cicada, the blow of the wind, and the sound of a trash can be knocked over in the alley next to him.
The last one made him jump.
"Gah! Damn it Iori!"
"Uh…get off Yuka-tan!" A slap rang out. "OW!"
"I KNOW you did not just touch me there!"
The three voices held a madly familiarity to them.
"Uh…" Slowly, a pair of hands pulled a limp body across the pavement from the alley into Minato's sight. Minato did not even need to guess the identities.
Junpei rubbed his hat-covered head with one hand. "Oww…" he whined. His face met the pavement as Akihiko pressed against for support to push himself to his feet.
"Nice one," the senior mocked.
"Hey!" Junpei defended. "I-"
Once again, his face was slammed into the pavement. Yukari pressed with the slightest concern on Junpei's head for support as she stood up.
"Uh," she hotly exhaled. "I CAN'T believe you talked me into this."
"You insisted to come!" Junpei retorted from the ground, his face turned a tinge black from the asphalt. Yukari simply turned up her nose.
"Because I'm sure you two would be in some kind of trouble if I didn't watch your every step."
Akihiko leered. "Oh really…"
"And just what if your excuse for being here?!" the girl demanded.
The boxer froze at the question. "Me?! Well-uh-um-"
"What are any of you doing here?"
The three faces jerked forward to see the target of their little sting operation squared off to them and staring them straight in the eye.
"AH!" Yukari tripped over Junpei, falling back on her butt. All three stood like deer in the headlights, caught red-handed. "M-M-Minato!" Yukari stuttered.
"Well?" Minato raised an eyebrow.
"Um..." Akihiko dumbly replied.
Without warning, Junpei jumped to his feet, Yukari's jumping back slightly at the boy's quick action.
"We came to stop you!" Junpei cried in the most convincing drama voice he could muster, barely able to hold back the smile on his face. "Stop you from making a terrible mistake! One that could ruin your life!"
Minato's placid expression did not fluctuate in the slightest. Sensing the tough crowd, Junpei still bravely plowed on.
"We want to know what you were doing out in a place like this so late young man!"
Akihiko couldn't help but crack a smile and chuckled. "I-Iori…" he half laughed, giving him a half surprised, half amused look.
Junpei finished with a poorly hid grin, waiting for an answer. Minato simply rolled his eyes.
Before another word could be said, the doors to the hotel swung open again. Elizabeth stepped out, and straight up to Minato. Without warning, she arms wrapped around him and pulled him into a tight embrace, passionately locking her lips on to his.
Junpei and Akihiko's jaws dropped. Disbelief underscored what passed through their minds. That was definitely no high-schooler.
"Until we meet again…" she softly spoke.
She released him from her arms and walked in the direction of home. She did not so much even spare the three a glance as she passed them.
Still slacked jawed, the two boys followed her every movement with wide eyes. Junpei was sure he was drooling. The short silvery hair, the way she had held Minato in her kiss,
"Dude…" The woman was a goddess.
And definitely more than a couple years older than Minato.
His head slowly turned back to regard the kid standing dumb-struck and face-flushed no doubt from the kiss.
Junpei unconsciously shook his head. "How…"
"A-Arisato," Sanada whispered in awe. He didn't know whether to be appalled or amazed. Either way, he was shocked speechless.
A resounding stamp shook the ground. Yukari was on her feet. Both boys turned half-consciously to the third member of their party briefly forgotten. All thoughts on the woman that had just left were expunged from their minds almost immediately at caching sight of her face.
With a yelp of fear, Junpei frog leaped from the girl's path. Akihiko stumbled backwards into the wall in fear. Anything either he or Mitsuru attempted to do in punishment for this would be nothing but a laugh at what Yukari was capable of at this point in time.
"S-So…Minato…" Yukari's voice shivered with venom. Her bangs covered her eyes, and a small grin, a horrible, horrible, small grin came across her face. "Who was she?"
As the enormity of the situation dawned on him, a terrified Minato took a trembling step backward, true fear freezing up his body.
"I believe I had asked you something like this earlier didn't I? Something about an older woman?" The dark grin dropped to a frown. Her terrifyingly quiet voice. "You lied Arisato. You lied to me."
God…what could this girl be capable of?
"Th-This…" Minato almost cried. "Isn't…what it looks like. I SWEAR…"
"Really Minato?" Her head lifted up, revealing the blood thirst in her eyes for all to see. "REALLY?!" she screeched. Her knuckles cracked as her hand slowly closed into a fist. With a frustrated scream, Yukari lunged at him.
All Akihiko and Junpei could do was watch as the terror unfolded.
Minato sighed and finally resigned himself to the long, brutal day as he watched her come at him.
"Good night folks."
- - -
- - -
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