Souji opened his eyes. Once again, he was in the Velvet Room, the wide-eyed, long-nosed Igor grinning at him from his plush armchair in the center with Margaret standing beside it. The silverette noticed the obvious change in the room, despite the fact that it had never changed for him during his first experience. The slow, plodding descent of the room during his first visit had changed to a much faster, breakneck free fall, and while the interior of the room remained unaffected, Souji began to feel the affects of the plummeting space. He silently wondered if it had anything to do with his prior fall to pursue the Amatsu Mikaboshi, or if some other, more symbolic event was involved.
"Greetings once again," smiled Igor happily, joy dancing in his round eyes. "You are indeed full of surprises, aren't you?"
"Master," spoke Margaret in a curious tone, her golden eyes glancing slightly to Souji's right. "Why is she here? Is it like the last time he brought someone with him?"
The silverette turned toward the familiar voice, his eyes widening as he recognized Naoto sitting in a chair next to him. The detective stared in awe around her at the Velvet Room before focusing on Igor and Margaret with a tense, uncertain defensiveness. "Wh-who are you two? What's going on? And what is this 'Velvet Room' which you speak of?"
"Please do not be alarmed," reassured Igor. "You are quite safe. There is no cause for concern."
"So this is the one?" asked Margaret as she peered appraisingly at Naoto, a mischievous smile crossing her lips. "I'm more than a little jealous. She's quite cute."
"I-I'm not cute!" yelled Naoto, blushing as her outburst caused Margaret to grin broadly at her. "And please don't change the subject! Who are you two and where am I?"
"My apologies," said the butler politely. "My name is Igor, and this is my assistant Margaret. We are here to provide your friend with special aid as he combats one of this world's undefeatable enemies. Under normal circumstances, this involves fusing together the Personas dwelling within the sea of his soul."
"Aid?" Naoto blinked, confusion entering her silver-blue eyes. "If you're here to aid Souji, then why am I here?"
"You are here," said Igor calmly, "because you hold a very special place in our guest's heart. This is a place that exists between dreams and reality that only its chosen guest and those close to him might enter. It is this closeness which allows you to become an important part of the services we will soon provide. Do you understand?"
"I… Oh." Naoto blushed heavily as she realized what "closeness" and "very special place" implied. "I-I… Yes, I understand…"
"Splendid!" exclaimed Igor as Margaret suppressed a giggle behind her hand, forcing Naoto to blush even more. "Now that the pleasantries have been exchanged, we may conduct our business. Indeed, this is a very special occasion, for I have been given a rare and exciting task to perform!"
"If it has to do with fusion," said Souji warily, "You may be out of luck. I haven't received any more Personas during this journey other than Izanagi-no-Okami."
"It does indeed involve fusion," confirmed Igor, "but other Personas will not be necessary. The ones currently present will be more than satisfactory, simply because this type of fusion is so different. It is not so much a combination of Personas, but rather an establishment of a powerful and profound link between two Personas of separate users."
"To put it in simpler terms," chimed Margaret, her eyes dancing with mischief, "you might consider it a 'marriage' of two Personas."
"M-m-marriage?" yelped Naoto, her blush covering her entire face. She glanced at Souji, quickly turning away as his eyebrows raised in concern. "N-not that I would decline such a prospect! It just… T-the terminology caught me off-guard, that's all…"
"So what you're intending…" said Souji, turning back to Igor as he tried to conceal the twitches in the corners of his mouth. "…is to 'marry' Izanagi and Izanami to provide them with greater power?"
"Precisely," confirmed Igor, his grin spreading wide. "You and she will fuse your Personas together with the power of this technique. You will both retain normal use of their abilities, but when the pair of you work together as one against your common enemy, you will become capable of an extraordinary feat!"
"Izanagi and Izanami… together?" Naoto's eyes widened as infinite possibility flooded her mind.
"I share your sentiment!" giggled Igor happily, waving his hand and causing two cards to appear in front of him on the table. "Well then, let us begin the fusion…"
Souji and Naoto watched in silence as the pair of cards rose from the table and into the air, spinning and circling around as power surged between them. Electricity arced from card to card as the degree of power began to increase rapidly, causing Souji's shorter hairs to stand on end.
"Oh, my…" gasped Igor, his eyes almost widening even more, if that were possible. "This power…! Can it be?"
"What is it, Master?" asked Margaret, her own voice sounding as nervous as Souji felt. "What arcana is this power you feel?"
"It is as I expected," replied Igor enthusiastically. "I feel the power of the World affecting this fusion! Anything will soon be possible for our young guests!"
Souji remembered the last time the World Arcana had been invoked, the energies calling forth Izanagi-no-Okami to deliver the final blow to Izanami five years ago. As the silverette recollected his prior encounter, his thoughts were interrupted as a flash of bright light blinded him, forcing him and Naoto to shield their eyes with their hands. As he opened them again, he blinked in surprise as a single card fluttered out of Igor's reach to the velvet carpet floor below.
"…The Wild Card, as well?" blinked Igor, his smile disappearing.
"…Oh, no…" Margaret whispered to herself, worry deeply etching itself in her beautiful features.
"Wild Card?" asked Naoto, gazing at Souji. "What does that mean?"
"It means it could be anything," murmured Souji calmly. Yet in spite of the fact that the power granted by the fusion could now be anything under the sun, the silverette was surprised to note how calm he felt. Smiling, he reached over and clasped Naoto's left hand in his right, giving her a soft nod of reassurance. She returned the smile, her silver-blue eyes glimmering with confidence.
Igor rose once he leaned over to retrieve the card from the floor, glancing curiously at what his fusion had produced. For a long moment he said nothing, but seemed to sense Margaret's nervousness as he turned first toward his assistant. Reaching over to her, the butler patted her jacketed arm gently, a soft smile crossing his face - a rare sight, and almost inappropriate to see upon such a demented visage.
"Everything will be alright, my dear," said Igor comfortingly as he flashed the card to his assistant.
Gazing at the card's face with wide, disbelieving eyes, Margaret trembled as she fell to her knees, her shoulders quaking with relief as she sobbed next to her master's armchair. "..Th... Thank God… Thank God…"
"Indeed. This is, by far, preferable to your original plan, is it not?" asked Igor, turning back to Souji with a knowing smile on his face.
"Well… I, uh…" Souji rubbed the back of his neck, feeling both foolish and uncomfortable as Naoto turned to face him.
"Original plan? What are you talking about?" Naoto looked between Souji and Igor, her face rife with concern.
"Our last guest, one who came before this young man, was willing to sacrifice his own life to defeat an enemy similar to the one you face now," explained Igor calmly. "This foe could not be defeated by normal means, and yet the power of the Universe provided him with a miracle, and allowed him to use his life force to seal this enemy away. Our current guest… was willing to do the exact same thing."
"W…What…?" Naoto faced Souji, her eyes wide in horror as he turned to face her, his own gaze unapologetic.
"However, there is a difference in your circumstances," continued Igor, causing the pair to look back at him. "For him, he was content and willing to give his life, as he was the product of his experiences. For you, however, your own experiences and connections, particularly between each other, have provided you both with an alternative solution: you both may now use the power of that which has no end… and no beginning."
"I… think I understand…" murmured Naoto softly, her silver-blue eyes staring calmly at her knees. "All that shall remain is…"
"Exactly!" exclaimed Igor, grinning broadly. "It is quite exciting! Once again, you have proven to be a very remarkable guest."
"…Were you right all along, Grampa?" asked Naoto to herself, her eyes beginning to shine with tears. "Can it… really be that simple? I- Aaah!" The sleuth gasped as she felt a pair of arms embrace her that weren't Souji's. Margaret had taken it upon herself to give Naoto a warm hug, sniffling gently as tears flowed down her flawless cheeks.
"Take care of him, would you?" asked the blonde softly. "I'm rather fond of him, and I know you make him happiest above all else in your world…"
"..I promise," smiled Naoto, also sniffling as she returned the embrace. For some reason, she felt connected to the strange assistant… almost like a sisterly bond. "He'll be just fine. I'm never letting him go again. Ever…"
"I believe you," replied Margaret as she broke the hug, moving back to her place at Igor's side. Rubbing her sleeve against her eyes, she stood tall and resumed her professional tone, even though her voice was hoarse from worry and tears. "W-we are now arriving at your destination…"
"Take comfort," smiled Igor, nodding respectfully to Souji, "when I say we will not meet again. However, I have the utmost faith that you will be just fine. Farewell, my friend."
The sound of rushing air surged into the Velvet Room as Igor and Margaret vanished instantly, followed by the groaning of wood and metal under extreme pressure. Snapping and cracking noises resounded around Souji and Naoto as pieces of the room began to fly apart and hurtle at them, missing them by mere inches.
"S-souji!" gasped Naoto as she leaped out of her chair and clung tightly against him. She winced as a sharp piece of metal flew nearly struck her arm.
"Naoto…" Souji spoke her name calmly, serenely, his soft voice carrying over the din of the wind and shrapnel. "Tune it all out… Listen to my heartbeat. Steady your breathing. Nothing will hurt you as long as I'm here. Just focus on me."
"I… Yes." Naoto saw the sense in the silverette's words, in spite of the dread that surged inside her at the possibility of danger all around them. Closing her eyes, she pressed her ear against Souji's chest, listening for the sound of his beating heart. She found it, the thumping within the silverette's strong body steady and confident to her ear. The sleuth focused next on her breathing, slowing it down, making herself relax. She knew that the turmoil around her hadn't ceased, that the room around her was breaking apart with the speed of its descent. But for some reason, it no longer bothered her. It didn't matter what was going on around her now.
Souji was with her.
He was all she needed.
As long as he was with her, nothing else mattered.
Naoto opened her eyes to see the Velvet Room shatter around them, the dangerous debris spinning and twisting around the pair in a spiral of destructive force.
Such a dangerous thing, thought Naoto in wonder. So much danger in this world… So much unknown…
And yet it doesn't matter. Not with Souji with me.
I see… so that's the answer I was looking for.
Naoto felt herself floating in midair, Souji's arms embracing her from behind. Together they watched as the spiraling dervish surrounding them began to dissipate and disappear, leaving them both surrounded in darkness. Yet it was not a darkness that extended to them, because they could see each other quite clearly. The nothingness would have frightened Naoto before, making her shudder and quake in fear. However, she saw the void in a new light, and it was exciting, and interesting, and challenging, especially with Souji next to her.
"…I'm not afraid anymore."
Souji looked down at the detective in his arms, his cheek pressing against her soft blue hair. "I'm glad to hear that."
Naoto gazed dreamily in front of her at the darkness, her eyes shimmering gently as she considered everything she had experienced. "After losing Grampa, facing the unknown was too terrifying to think about. Especially the thought of losing others I cared about… you, most of all. That's why I drifted away. Because I couldn't bring myself to get close to you again only to face the possibility of losing you… Moving away, dying, it didn't matter. I was just running away… even though I thought I was protecting what was precious to me, I was deluding myself.
"And then you came back, almost out of nowhere, just as I was about to lose all hope. Back at the inn, I was torn between kissing you outright and running out of the room… That's why I couldn't look at you when we were leaving. I was still too scared… I thought it was all a dream…"
Naoto turned to look up at Souji, her eyes shining happily as she gazed into his own, her smile wide and genuine. " I've decided not to run away anymore. I'm facing the future without fear from this day forward. And I'm doing so by your side, if you'll have me."
Souji chuckled and placed a gentle kiss on the detective's forehead. "You think I'd leave you now, after all we've been through? I've always stayed… and that's never going to change."
"Of course it isn't," grinned Naoto, a blush creeping into her cheeks. "I was merely being polite."
"Then I think it's time we defended our future." Souji slid his left hand into his pocket and withdrew the Orb of Sight. The gemstone glimmered with its inner light as it always did when it sensed a truth concealed.
"I agree. Not just ours, but everyone's." Naoto slid her left hand over the Orb and held Souji's much larger hand. Together, they released the Orb into the nothingness around them, the sphere floating gently away from them as its light began to shine more strongly through the darkness. With an intense surge of brightness, the Orb shattered into many smaller pieces, the fragments gliding in all directions and giving off their own illumination.
Within the shadows of the void surrounding Souji and Naoto, an oversized feathered wing could be seen passing through one of the Orb's fragments. Another revealed a muscled leg which glowed with a bright crimson. More of the shards caused other parts of the form to reveal itself, and soon a gigantic humanoid became visible to the pair. With four pairs of wings, six arms, two legs, and a single head containing three blank faces, the true form of the Amatsu Mikaboshi radiated with the glow of a volatile red star. Surrounding the three of them was a swirling, raging storm of chaotic force, as though they were caught in the eye of the world's strongest hurricane.
…Illogical… The voice of the Amatsu rumbled around Souji and Naoto, one with the raging storm around them even as its origin loomed in front of them. …Both of you should have been unmade upon entering this place… This entity must rectify this oversight immediately…
Raising its six arms and pointing its crimson hands toward Souji and Naoto, the Amatsu fired six powerful rays which collided into the pair instantaneously. Crying out in pain and shock, the two Persona-users clung to each other as they resisted the assault, though just barely.
"..D-Don't let go…!" gasped Souji as he clutched the sleuth to his chest.
"Never..!" growled Naoto, leaning back against the silverette as she held tightly onto his arms.
…Why do you continue to fight?… The Amatsu sounded astounded to the pair's ears, even disbelieving. …The influence of this entity is absolute within this space. You cannot escape except through oblivion. Nothing and no one can aid you here-
"We'll see about that!" A familiar voice rang out around them, almost as powerful as the Amatsu's growling rumble. "Our friendships hold a lot more power than you might think!"
"Yosuke-san?" gasped Naoto, her eyes widening as she felt a flood of energy begin to flow into herself.
"It is," grinned Souji as the energy passed into his body next.
"Yeah! You're not gonna take them down without a fight! Y-you two had better live! I don't want either of you to be alone!" Rise's voice squeaked slightly as it called after Yosuke's, causing Naoto to shiver slightly in Souji's arms.
"I don't believe it…" whispered the detective, smiling happily as her friends' voices cheered the both of them on.
…Illogical… …This is illogical… The Amatsu's near-angelic body shimmered in irritation as it gathered energy for another attack.
"You two'd better get your asses back here in one piece if you know what's good for ya!" called Kanji's voice, though he sounded confident in spite of the mock-threat.
"Don't give up!" Yukiko's voice followed, full of faith and trust. "There's so much waiting for you when you get back! Remember the people who love you both, and let it give you strength!"
…Enough! This ends now… The Amatsu hurtled six more beams of energy at Souji and Naoto. However, the effect seemed to lessen as the power of their friends' faith and friendship made them stronger and more resilient.
"Remember, you two! Don't think; feel!" The familiar tone of Chie's voice made them smile as she once again used her trademark catchphrase. Only this time, both Souji and Naoto understood what she meant this time around.
"I believe in you too, Senseis!" Teddie's cheerfulness gushed forth as his words gave the pair confidence. "We're all waiting for you! Show that Amatsu thingie what Bear Time is all about!"
Souji groaned, though he smiled at Teddie's unflinching dedication to all things ursine. Even Naoto could hardly suppress a giggle.
"…Nao-chan. Souji-san. You are ready. Do it now."
Naoto tensed in Souji's arms, her widening eyes shining with newly formed tears as a final voice spoke clearly into her mind. "G…G-grampa…?"
…Interfering old fool! The Amatsu's rage became unrestrained as it seemed to sense Hotei nearby. Watch and despair as all you fought to defend is annihilated! The beams of energy once again shot at the pair, but the two of them were ready for it. Raising their left hands in unison, the rays collided with the shining glass faces of the twin watches Naoto had made for them. The surfaces reflected the crimson light into the rolling, thundering clouds off to their right, causing the storm at the impact zone to become more violent for a brief moment.
…Illogical! The Amatsu roared its disbelief, its six hands lowering in uncertainty as it beheld two beings it could not destroy.
Wordlessly, Souji raised his right hand as Naoto did the same with her left. A single card coalesced above the pair and shattered of its own accord, summoning Izanagi and Izanami at the same time. The male Persona twirled his long spear in the air, causing the chaos storm to separate behind him. Within the separating clouds and surging thunder, a peerless white marble pillar revealed itself, flawless except for a single diamond-shaped hole near the location of the two Personas.
Holding out his spear, Izanagi gazed intently at his wife. Izanami nodded, and placed her hand on her husband's, the spear shimmering with intense power as it reacted to the pair's joint partnership. With a strong thrust, the two Personas pushed the long blade of the spear into the diamond-shaped socket up to the circular hilt. With one hand on the top part of the circle, and another on the bottom, Izanagi and Izanami turned the spear like a key, and a shining outline of white illuminated the door which that key unlocked, on the surface of the pillar just above the keyhole.
Silently, the marble double-door swung open, and three orbs of the purest golden light zipped out of the portal, immediately moving to Souji and Naoto. The two humans gazed at the strange orbs in awe as they began to circle swiftly around the pair. Souji and Naoto felt the tension of their situation fade from their bodies, replaced with the most blissful and exquisite peace they had ever felt in their entire lives.
…Illogical! The Amatsu's voice was, for the first time since the pair had heard it, fearful and nervous. …Such entities cannot be summoned by mere humans! It defies all possible logic!…
At the sound of the rumbling, deep voice, the three shining beings zipped away from Souji and Naoto and toward the deadly, angelic destroyer. The golden hued orbs heavily contrasted against the blood-red glow of the Amatsu as they began to circle around it similarly to how they had spun around Souji and Naoto. As soon as they had begun, the Amatsu began to shudder and falter, parts of its form breaking down into what appeared to be snowy red and white static.
…Illogical! Illogical! IllooooOOOoooOoOOOooOO0000000-
The Amatsu's voice transformed as the glowing orbs spun more quickly around it, seeming like a dialup modem trying desperately to stabilize its connection. More and more of its crimson body began to take on the appearance of static, its form losing definition rapidly. The golden light of the beings revolving around the Amatsu increased in brightness, overwhelming the destroyer, the chaos storm, and Souji and Naoto.
Yet the two humans didn't seem to mind. They simply snuggled into each other as their vision was obscured by comforting, golden rays of dawn.
"Hang in there, Nanako!" encouraged Dojima as he kicked a Shadow out of the Junes lobby and back out into the parking lot.
"I'm trying, Dad," gasped Nanako Dojima, panting with exhaustion after Tatsuhime finished her assault on another contingent of Shadows trying to break into the department store. "I… I just feel so tired… I dunno if I can go on…!"
"…If you need to rest, then don't push yourself." Dojima frowned to himself, looking slightly guilty.
"I'm fine… Really." Nanako smiled up at her father in spite of her tiredness. "Big Bro's still fighting, so I need to stay strong too. Right?"
"…Nanako… I-" Dojima turned, stopping himself in mid-sentence as a flash of gold interrupted his thoughts. "…What the hell?"
Nanako spun around to see what her father was looking at, and she gasped in awe as a shining spear of golden light rose into the sky, the base of which would have been where the Rift had appeared.
Yasogami High School.
"…Big Bro…" Nanako whispered softly, her eyes shimmering with tears as a soft smile crept onto her lips.
The golden light seemed to blossom from its point of origin, covering the entire region of Inaba with its purity. Nanako saw the Shadows that had been heading for the storefront attempt to flee, only to be overtaken by the brilliance and disintegrate on contact.
As the light reached her, she felt her body become lighter, her energy restored as her consciousness drifted away…
Big Bro… I knew you could win… I just knew it…