Author's Note: First of all, I know this has been a long, long, VERY long while since the last update. I even sure that none is reading this anymore. However, to indulge myself of the knowledge that I at least, is doing something productive and relieve myself from the ending of this story, I will continue to write. Second of all, I would like to give pre-emptive apology as this is my first time writing something since a very long while so I might already lost my touch. However, that should not stop me, now, should it? :D
If you want to blame anything for the lateness of this fic, or even thank anything for making me actually continue this, please blame (and thank) AKB48 and other 48 family group for diverting me away from this fandom, and also for leading me back here. :D Also, blame my university for those mood-killing assignments etc etc = this one is the one, major, the very factor why this story comes to a hiatus.
Also, as always, this is unproofread. If you happen to find anything, just tell me. :D Thank you very much as always.
Disclaimer: I do not own Persona or any of the lyrics or poems I used in this fic.
I wouldn't have been sure of my answer.
Because there wouldn't have been enough
attention to my suffering. And that's unforgivable.
But I keep on forgiving myself
Jason Shinder – "The Good Son"
Shadow casted itself to the inner side of the tunnel. A beacon of trouble, she thought. The water was ankle deep and it didn't smell as fresh as the Samegawa River. Of course, the waste was not a hygienic place to begin with. Slowly, she walked to a sidewalk on one of the sides of the tunnel. It was dry enough and she hated to soak her fine shoes.
There may or may not be enemies. She came based on her intuition after all. That is why keeping her shoes clean were amongst priority so as not to draw unnecessary attention if she were to walk back to Doujima's house.
Naoto touched the cold sewage wall, tracing the brick for any unusual signs. This was not a blind guess, to be honest, although she wasn't sure of it either.
The Shadow people always caused blackout… which supposed to be a major nuisance for them.
The Shadow people could go wherever they want in this town, which was strange. They came up in random places without anyone noticing them and that shouldn't have been possible unless they teleport. They also didn't cause electricity blackout, which supposed to happen when they come out. With their continuous battle with each other, Naoto managed to know that the blackout happened in certain proximity with the electrical appliances. If that was so, as long as the Shadow people were far away enough from the electronic appliances, they could go wherever they want.
Flying? It was not an option, they didn't have wings—unless they could transform and indeed possessed wing. If that was the possibility, they were supposed to do that when fleeing, not trying as hard as they could to outrun the Persona Users. It also added to the undeniable possibility that someone will report that a human is actually flying—which no one had said anything near that. That leaves the only option: underground.
The sewage was low enough so as not to cause any blackout and reveal their location. The sewer, like any other place in Japan, connected with one another, those Shadow people could travel almost wherever they wanted under Inaba. That was why, the most probable place for them to use as a base is this sewer.
Which means she literally went to kill herself going down alone.
Courage. It was not whether she wanted to, but whether she could.
The souls… were mingling with one another. There was no other explanation Naoto could make. There must be a way that they could mingle with each other, and perhaps this could link to the way they were taken… and the way to get them back. Did they meet one another soul in a track… or clashes with each other somewhere?
Rise did say that she could hear screams inside the Shadow people.
Naoto took a deep breath, instinctively raise her hand to grab her signature cap… which wasn't where it usually were. Nanako had it now.
There was a heavy weight in her heart, but she swallowed it. She was not fearless, that she knew the most. She was not the most honest or the most kind-hearted in the group, but she, too, knew pain.
Fingers tightly wrapped around the handle of her revolver, she walked into the darkness of the sewer.
They were... the forgotten. No one remembered them, or even wanted to. They were casted away, unwanted. That was something really cruel and painful but no one even paid attention to it anymore. All they wanted was for that pain to go away.
That was the Miracle.
That was he had always hoped for.
Aren walked slowly along the darkness invested sewer. He was so accustomed with this track, he needn't lights or even sense of direction anymore to get to where he was going. If it was for the Miracle, he would take any path. He believed in Father.
He wanted to believe in Father.
Father was the one who gave them this birth. Father was the only one...
Bring me the vessel...
He wouldn't let Father in pain... He wouldn't let anyone touch his Miracle.
There were many detective and police movies. They always aired a little late at night but since there was no particular restrictions from both of her parents or her grandfather, she remembered quite vividly about what happened in those movies. She even remembered some of the actors. Why, she always strive to be one of them, didn't she? It was natural for her to remember those movies.
In those movies, detectives will do anything to gain the truth.
Not to say that she was an avid fan of the movies... but now she knew what that exactly mean. After going through a knee deep sewage water-it was only ankle deep in the beginning and she eventually had to cross-and now walking silently with her back almost touching the wall by a low platform by the side of the sewer, if it was not for truth, what were those efforts for? Feeling something tugged her mind, flashes of those movies came before her.
Even Sherlock Holmes would go through this for truth, wouldn't he? Although maybe he would do it a lot more... intelligently.
She was right about one thing though. Long ago, the sewage water was cast to the river, now they had to undergo series of processes before being released to the natural water bodies. It lead, however, to the main sewer and Naoto had to admit that it was not the best smell that she had ever known.
The moment she was inside she knew that perhaps she was correct.
She could feel darkness. That was queer.
Who, when, what, where, why, and how? She remembered the reason that brought her there instantly-hammering the back side of her head.
Licking her lips, Naoto walked deeper. That darkness told her to keep away but her feet took her even deeper instead. The more she wanted to go away from there, the more she advanced.
Fear is what makes a man.
She could almost scoffed.
I am not a man though. I am, however... a detective.
Isn't that hard? To try getting a ticket as fast as possible?
It is. But that is not a problem at all. Is everyone ok?
They're going their own ways.
Is that okay?
Her fingers stopped. Was that alright?
I don't know. But they all have their rights to go their own way.
And where are you going?
Nowhere. I'll be waiting.
The handle was cold. She could feel the cold steel in her palm. Between the both of them was a door. Only a door.
If there was a wish I want to be granted...
She wanted to give him her answer. That was all. It doesn't matter if he couldn't hear her.
I wish only...
Slowly, she opened the door.
... to lie there with you.
They were slithering, those darkness. Their ripples were the only things she could see in the empty sewer. There was not even a rat or even something as close as a spider. It was completely barren other than the darkness.
Her steps were muffled by the puddle of black liquid. The darkness was creeping all around her, she could feel them touching her skin. It was uncomfortable, as if something was searching her, looking for something to feed on if she let go off her watchfulness. The trigger of her gun was almost slippery by her sweat. She was not the most brave of them all nor the chicken-none of their teams was a chicken, she knew. However, this much darkness was enough to make her sweat although the summer heat didn't even penetrated that deep. They were trying to dominate her, making her turn her back and run away.
The darkness was alive. She was getting closer.
Somehow she knew that maybe she could even meet a part of Rise down here. She might even found Yousuke. She didn't know whether she could bring them back though... or if she would only join them.
Feeling the grip of darkness over her body, she moved deeper. If the darkness was able to feel her, they would have attacked but they weren't. She could only hope that they would consider her a sewage rat forever.
For this once, despite her pride, she wanted only to be considered as a stubborn and clueless sewer rat.
Yousuke was unconscious but nowhere near harmed. He looked as if he was sleeping. There wasn't even anything other than a liquid transfusion near him. It seemed as if he merely took some nap... just a bit longer. It seemed as if he was just late in waking up before school... It was just that he wasn't.
The room was not empty. Both of Yousuke's parents were there, his mother was sitting by the folding chair beside Yousuke's bed—her eyes were red from crying—and her husband was standing by the window. Both of their eyes were on her. At first she didn't felt it though. All she saw was the one on the bed...
"Why are you here?"
Her eyes moved to Mrs. Hanamura, whose tears slowly spilled once again. The emotions in her voice made Chie stopped. She hadn't even walked in.
"Why do you come?"
There was no even a word that went out of Chie's slightly opened mouth.
"How dare you walk in here!" The mother's voice escalated. She almost jumped from her chair. "After running away leaving him... How dare you! Get out of here!"
"Sakiko..." Mr. Hanamura moved, his hand rose to grab her shoulder but his wife was a second faster. "Sakiko, she..."
"We do not want you here! Get out!"
Chie's grip upon the door tightened, the same with the painful tug in her heart.
There was a faint movement from the intersection in front of her. She didn't know which part of the sewage was that but she didn't care. The darkness grew thicker and she though perhaps this was it. They almost dominated her from time to time-stopping her, trying to convince her to turn around. She almost did that, feeling the domination over her as they crept to her and clung to her and forced her to suck in their scent. She pulled through though. With sheer will, she pulled through.
We will get them back.
Yes, somehow. Somehow we will. If only we get the clue...
The darkness grew even more active. After this intersection... she might find what she was looking for. If not, she couldn't imagine what awaited her with a bigger animosity than the darkness around her. Shifting her body weight slightly, Naoto gathered up her courage... and peeked.
She almost dropped her gun. The darkness were so thick around her that she almost couldn't see her wrist but that was not the point. In front of her was something that she couldn't comprehend. She had seen Shadows, darkness, or even Izanami herself, but she had never seen...
Darkness was spilling. They coiled and whirled from his base-"His" if that mass was indeed the "Father" they were talking about. Faint colorful lights were leaping over a huge black mass, appearing and reappearing like water that trickled on top of rocks, like the corona of the sun. The darkness was so huge, almost in the height of Namatame when he changed. But he was formless. The darkness was coiling, moving, rippling... there was not a definite form of it at all. Darkness coated the wall, separating slightly from the opening of the sunlight that peeked through a hole in the ceiling. They moved, tasting, feeling... never stop moving. There were, however, things unmoved on the mass.
Shadow masks. Many of them.
"Father! Tell me what I could do, Father!"
There was a thunderous rumble, so strong that Naoto could feel her feet were shaken by it. So strong that... the darkness around her were moving, dragging her right foot off the ground and made her slipped.
Her gun fell to the floor, the sound of it was so loud that the whole darkness was frozen stiff. A wave of ripple spread out from the place her gun had fell, all the way to the surrounding darkness. As the ripple spread, the movement stops.
Her heartbeat stopped.
For a moment, everything stood still... until suddenly, the masks were all turned towards the detective—their eyes suddenly lit up.
The door was shut. Chie pushed her back to the wall of the hall, releasing the handle like someone touching a hot pan. Both of her hands were clenched tight, punching the wall behind her with such force that she could hear a faint crack. There was pain in her throat, and she could feel how her eyes turned blurry.
I didn't want it to happen either.
If I could tell him to just run and wake up and let me be the one in his place, I would.
The door beside her opened, slowly. She didn't need to look up to know that it was Mr. Hanamura.
He had no time to finish his statement. The girl before him was already running, away from him.
First move win.
The darkness lunged themselves at her at the same time, along with Vala. But her gun was with her again in a flash, pointed up in its desperate search for the only light-the blue light of the Fortune card.
Blinding lights fell from the ceiling and at an instant the darkness spread themselves away from it—coiling, silently shrieking. Naoto caught her momentum. Feeling the grip of the darkness over her loosened, she kicked the pavement and bolted away. Spears of darkness flashed passed her—snares of black that tried to close right in front of her. The only light that broke through was her falling card.
Streaks of lights opened her path—the pentagram blast away the darkness around her, the swirling card of light that came out of the ground scare away the spears of darkness as she ran through. She could feel wind built up behind her, intensifying as it focused its power.
The blast hit the wall of the sewer for Naoto had darted in the intersection. The last streak of light from her Hamaon disappeared as it exploded. Though away from their watch... the darkness that surrounded the sewer were all rippling, she could feel them reacting to that 'Father'...
The pentagram bust through a darkness-created wall. Almost slipping off dark liquid around her, Naoto ran though the gap just before it closed... and lunged spears at her.
Series of light slashes parried all the spears. Naoto stumbled, hand touching the liquid-covered pavement as she tried to regain balance... before dark liquid shot up and caught her right foot, tugging it back. The force was so strong that she fell, chin hitting the pavement and sent jolt to her body. She kicked, twisting her body around to see what was behind her, only to look at how Vala had his hand rose up high with the background of dozens of black spear aiming to her place.
Gunshot echoed and the card was shattered. Spears lunged at her but the firm gloved hand of Yamato Takeru caught her shirt, pulling her away from the darkness... and threw her away to the far end of the sewer. Naoto hit the pavement, dragged by the force until she hit the end of the sewer, blinded by both pain and darkness. But there was an intersection ahead of her and her hand reached out to the darkness—shining with the light of the card appearing inside her hand.
The persona appeared, again, taking her inside his hands... and blast away to the intersection, away from the eyes of Vala and the dark strands of Father.
Nanako's hum drifted as she hung the laundry. The sun was shining and the girl said even if they were to go tomorrow, there is still laundry to do. Yukiko watched as Nanako flapped a shirt, tightening her grip over the bed sheet that she was supposed to hang. Tomorrow she will be able to run away from all of these mess.. Tomorrow, she will...
"Something is happening here, right, Yuki-Neechan?"
Nanako's voice snapped her back to the real world. The little girl was clutching the shirt in her hand, not quite looking at Yukiko. The small girl's eyes were... somehow clouded.
"E-eh? What do you mean, Nanako-chan?"
"Dad wouldn't want to leave the town while there is a case..." Nanako continued, her hand tightened over the shirt. "Dad.. Dad always say that his job is important, to protect the town... and to protect me. I... I saw the news. Dad must have been very busy... but he said he wants vacation..."
"Is Dad... running away?" Nanako still continued, and still not looking at Yukiko. She had finally said what was in her mind. "I thought.. that maybe something is very wrong... that Dad is running away from it... But if I ask Dad... Dad will be troubled..."
"What should I do, Oneechan?" Nanako turned to look at Yukiko, her eyes wavering. "Should I ask Dad? Should I just be silent? I don't want to hurt Dad..."
And they said she is just a little girl...
Yukiko's hand gently pressed Nanako's shoulder. The inn manager lowered her body to level herself with the little girl and smiled.
"Do you believe in your father, Nanako-chan?"
The question was left in the air, and the little girl's eyes went wider. Her mouth was open, the silent question.
Yukiko repeated, again, slowly.
"Do you believe in him?"
There was a moment of silent, then the answer came out.
The answer came very firm, and it seemed like understanding had come to her too. The little girl was smiling.
Yukiko smiled then patted Nanako's head gently.
"Then believe in him. I think that is what he needs the most right now."
And what we need the most right now.
Nanako's smiled was vibrant again and the girl nodded.
"Yep! Let's continue, shall we?"
Do I believe in him?
Her breath was ragged and painful. Her shirt was ripped in some places and blood dripped from the wounds on multiple part of her body. She almost couldn't grip her revolver anymore, strength was drained away from her with every step she took. Naoto gritted her teeth then leaned to the cold concrete wall of the sewer.
Exhaustion took her in as she slowly reload her revolver. She had outrun them... for now. That Vala was really persistent, she was almost caught several times. At least now she was away from the black liquid. The moving liquid was the worst, it could trip and hurl itself at her. Getting farther is a good thing... though she knew not of where she was now. Backtracking is not an option. It was the same as suicide.
Pushing herself from the wall, Naoto walked slowly. If she were to run away, the only way is forward...
"I have found you."
Naoto stopped her step, slowly raising her head to look at the sewer that ran straight several meters in front of her. Aren was standing in front of her, his hands resting by his sides. His yellow eyes emotionlessly looking at her condition, and it seemed like he had known everything that has happened.
There was Aren in front of her... and Vala and Father's black liquid behind her.
And it was a straight sewer of no intersection.
A smile crept up Naoto's lips.
"Stop kidding me now..." She gritted her teeth while tightening her grip over her revolver. Pain racked her nerves but she still raised her gun.
Just promise me you'll go home, Naochan.
"I'm not going down just yet!"
If only I were the one there, not him... If only I were there together with him... If only...
If only none of this happened... then...
But they were Ifs... Nothing will begin with If...
Her grip was so strong, she could feel the pain of her nails digging to her flesh. Sceneries flashed pass her as she run, but her mind was shouting that, again and again.
Nothing will begin with ifs. Do you want to die dreaming of what ifs?
YOU can save this town.
You are me and I am you.
The power... that was bested upon you...
"What a waste for that power to be given to you."
Do you want to just turn your back and deny me again?
No, give me power! Give me power so I can look forward again. Give me power so I can just end all this!
I am here all the time.
Aren't you the one not believing in me?
The Megidolaon exploded, spreading deafening sound wave to every direction. Naoto jumped to the other side of the sewer, running along the pavement while watching Aren rolling away from the blast. The man threw fireballs at her—hitting the concrete wall and creating sparks and spitfires behind Naoto. Waves of cold washed Naoto from the side, and at the same time with it, she threw herself forward.
The ice cracked and shattered, sending shards that showered her as she ducked and continued running. With her speed, the end of the straight line was approaching fast, and she could see an intersection to the her left... Her eyes darted to the other side of the sewer, quickly catching Aren who had jumped to her place, building power in his right hand.
Power blast the pavement right behind her as she ducked inside the tunnel, running frantically to the next intersection... when suddenly strands of darkness shot out of the dark tunnel in front of her. She went in circles, she should have took the turn on the other side of the tunnel.
But the intersection was just ahead...
Spears shot from the darkness and she ran straight to it, feeling them grazed her skin as she ducked with all her might, her hand trailing the edge of the pavement. Her blood flowed out of her wounds... and suddenly a wave of sudden uneasiness swept her.
Those child act are no mere affectation. They're the truth!
With a loud cry, Naoto pulled herself to the intersection. Black blood spilled from her already open wound. And she could feel herself torn from the inside. Aren arrived behind her, grabbing her foot. His mouth was open.. and he sucked.
The direct and point zero hit threw Aren and the darkness away. With all will she kicked the pavement, against all the pain and sudden storms of emotions ramming into her skull.
Why? Why are you leaving me?
The Persona appeared and dragged her further down the sewer, almost throwing her again in the process, but the power was depleting, and Yamato Takeru dispersed to thin air. In pain, Naoto found herself scrambling by the pavement, her hands rose up to cover her face.
Why am I always left alone? I'm lonely... I'm so lonely...
The souls... Naoto pushed herself up, gritting her teeth, and looked back with blurred vision. Her hand rose up... then crush a falling arcana hard inside her hand. Another Megidolaon fell, right on top of Aren who was lunging himself at her. The blow also pushed Naoto farther into the sewer, away from the trailing dark strands. She had to run... somehow...
"You-" Aren was already up, a mere black mass with lit up yellow eyes.
"You're but a kid! Just a kid!" they... say...
Again, as if only a mere reflex, Naoto raised her gun then shot a faint falling card. Aren leaped from his place towards Naoto in a feral manner, dodging the Megido, reaching out and slamming her to the ground. The pain made her cough; Her eyes blurred as she faced the dark face of Aren. The shadow opened his mouth...
to which Naoto put her gun into, a shining card on its tip.
The shriek was stabbing the silent sewer. Black blood splattered all over the place as light racked Aren from inside. Naoto closed her eyes as the black blood showered her, feeling the uncomfortable sensation as they slithered off her skin. Her vision was still blurry... and somehow no matter how her brain trying to make it out... ...
Pain was all over her body. She wanted to stop... to end...
Naoto propped herself to her right elbow, grimacing, as she knew her left hand was broken from the throw Yamato Takeru did. In front of her was a heap of black mass that was Aren, stirring and coiling—trying to make a definite form to no avail. The two yellow eyes were brimming with hatred; Darkness spilled from the mass towards Naoto, as if trying to reach to her.
Naoto tried to get herself up, leaning to one side of the tunnel. Blood was dripping from her wounds and her eyes caught sight of the strands of darkness that coiled and moved from the place she went in from. Father was waiting.
"... Why do you still have the power?" Aren was moving, trying to get larger by gathering the spills of black blood around him. "How can you still call... even though you should have been taken..."
"I can't... let go of it that easily," answered the detective, feeling the iron blood inside her mouth. Her brain was still reeling for answer... however, her mind felt cloudy. "... I won't let go off myself that easily."
Her vision blurred... and the storm of voices rammed her skull again. She felt like crouching down.. but she wouldn't in front of this shadow. She raised her hand, pointing her gun towards Aren. Her voice was hollow as she asked, "... Why are you doing this...? What is this?"
The two yellow eyes followed the gun; its calm was not something that the detective expected.
"Why, Fortune, you asked me? ... ... We did this all... to be human."
"Rise! Rise, what happen?"
The pain was almost unbearable... all the loneliness washed her from the inside and the storm of emotions began.
Yukiko's hug was trying to pull her back... and when her eyes open, she could feel the black tear running down her face.
"... ... Naoto-kun..."
Naoto chuckled. She lowered her gun.
"You say you want to be human?" She scoffed. "How can you be one... when your actions are only drawing you away from humanity?"
Aren watched her calmly. The two yellow eyes were changing... and suddenly Naoto felt like she had seen those eyes before.
The reply came unexpected. Aren was closing both of his eyes—disappearing into the dark mass.
"Yes. That may be true... Fortune."
With that, the final heap of black mass fell to the pavement as black blood, splashing to Naoto's shoes and down to the sewer, leaving multiple colorful lights on its place. Naoto watched those lights as they swirled higher, suddenly finding her hand actually reaching out to them.
I want to be a grown up. I want a be a big boy by now.
Her blurred vision caught the sight of black blood flowing out of the wound on her hand, and she drew back her hand. One of the lights lingered longer while the others flew away towards Father's black strands, but Naoto wasn't paying attention to them now.
The black blood was all over her, and suddenly a wave of exhaustion washed over her.
Her back leaned to the wall and slowly she went to a sit, sprawling her legs open in front of her, feeling all the pain and exhaustion, hearing all the voices whispering inside her.
Those voices... were all searching for something...
She wiped the blood off her mouth then looked at it, finding how red and black smeared together on the back of her hand.
We will bring them back.
Yes... we will bring them back.
Her cell phone opened with a flick, its screen was buzzing. However, her fingers kept moving... and a while later she could hear the dial tone.
The voice sounds familiar. Ah. Yes...
"... ... The links... ... are broken. If you want... to bring it back... "
"...eh? Hello? Naoto?"
"... ... .. bring... the links back."
The phone was cut off. The detective slowly looked at the screen of her cell phone, realizing how dark blood was smeared all over the screen. From her body... From the wounds all over her body, black blood oozed out. Her dark eyes turned to look at strands of darkness that crept to her place. Though her vision blurred, she could make out shadows creeping.
Who... will I brought back?
I want a reason for me to stay..
Why... There is, is it not?
... you will bring them back, will you not?
Isn't it a cool, manly name?
"We will go home soon. You be a good girl, okay?"
You're never home then.
"The one mystery that one will never escape from is life."
"I won't let go off myself that easily."
Her eyes watched as a faint card formed upon her hand... then shattered. It just shattered.
Someone... was waiting for myself.
Her bleeding hand moved, slowly, over the cellphone. The buzzing sound was the only sound in the sewer. However somewhere, a phone rang.
Just promise me you will go home, Nao-chan.
I will... Grandpa..
And gently the darkness had embraced her, with the last drops of black blood from her eyes.
To be continued