There hadn't been a funeral.
There was still a search going on for Mitsuru. It had fallen to Junpei to explain the truth to Officer Kurosawa, though he could no more alert any authorities than tell them of the Dark Hour.
They'd made a unanimous, unspoken decision to leave whatever remains there were in Elysion. There was no trace of Mitsuru after Kronos' destruction, and Aigis lay broken in the poplar forest. Ken had been buried weeks ago in an insignificant suburb called Inaba. Thinking of it had fanned Yukari's anger back to brightness at the unfairness of it all, which had been a reprieve from her pain.
They had not seen each other much in the intervening weeks, which Yukari wasn't sure how to take. She let the storms of anger and grief pass over her, trying not to fight them, nor call them when they were absent. She felt powerless and sick, and any hope that Minato might someday be saved, her friends be made happy, had left her for now.
Yukari knew she was still under surveillance from the police, though Kurosawa was trying to covertly turn their attention from her. They'd questioned her repeatedly concerning Mitsuru's whereabouts, and Yukari had lied, comforted by how heartless her voice sounded. She could lie without crying. Nothing related to Personas would go on record. Wouldn't Mitsuru be proud?
Impossible to know.
The Kirijo Group, already fragmented, was in turmoil as different individuals struggled to take control. It didn't matter who got it in the end. Mitsuru's branch of the Kirijo family was now dead. Everything her grandfather had done, the creation of Tartarus and its Personas, was at an end.
She'd seen little of the others, though both Junpei and Akihiko also lived in Port Island. Fuuka had said something about Chidori answering Junpei's long absence by refusing to let him in the house, and last year, Yukari would've loved that. Fuuka had called several times, asking if she wanted to meet up (in a tone that wondered Are you taking this okay, do you need to talk, I really want to talk about what's happened). Yukari'd been evasive, and Fuuka must have said something, because Junpei called - which he almost never did - and that was somehow harder, because he'd ended up saying all those things outright. Concern was worse than all the barbs they'd used in their school days. The most Yukari could offer was a brusque "Sure, yeah, I'll call sometime." Part of her knew she'd want them with her someday, perhaps soon.
Akihiko she hadn't heard from. There was no explanation he could make to the police, and his only option was to disappear. Good riddance, she thought sometimes, and other times, We have to find him again some day.
Those - others - hadn't intruded, but she felt too bleak even to be grateful for that. Who were they anyway, feeling upset...that blond boy crying when someone said Aigis' name, the black-haired girl trying to tend to Akihiko's burns. Who was Seta, that he might have killed Mitsuru at the end?
They'd had no right, either to interfere or to grieve. Yukari was grateful it didn't seem to matter now. It would some day, everything would matter again, and it might be too soon.
She stood on the dormitory's steps, heedless of passersby, staring up at the door. She didn't know if it was still unlocked. She had no intention of finding out. She bent and placed a cluster of pink carnations on the first step. She didn't know if Mitsuru and Aigis had had favorite flowers, but they were Yukari's favorite, and she hoped that would be good enough.
They never found Mitsuru's body. Perhaps... She shook her head. Mitsuru had died fractured and enslaved. Better to hope that she'd somehow been reunited with Artemisia in her death, made human once again, free from Elysion.
She felt Akihiko's stare on the back of her neck. She didn't need to turn to know that it was him. She could imagine him standing on the other side of the street, unwilling to come any closer and unwilling to keep away.
Yukari straightened and looked over her shoulder. Akihiko's head was tipped back, regarding the dormitory's highest row of windows, the surveillance room where Mitsuru had so often gone alone to train her Persona. He didn't move as pedestrians walked around him, some throwing him curious looks, then following the line of his sight to the dorm, down to Yukari and the flowers. No one stopped to watch.
Akihiko shook himself, his gaze dropping to her. He didn't smile, but he bent his elbow, a gesture similar to holding an Evoker. He opened his palm in a motionless wave, then let his hand fall back to his side as he turned and walked quickly away, leaving the street with its vanished Nyx graffiti, the sidewalks that had once been dark with Shadows and motionless coffins, the dormitory. If only for now.
He didn't immediately look up when the door to the shop slid open, bringing the scent and sound of a cold downpour. But he recognized Naoto by the rhythm of her walk, and he lifted his face just as she reached the counter, the mostly-finished glove flopping to his lap.
"Good morning," Naoto said. "I was in town, so I thought I'd...drop by."
Kanji was surprised, though he'd known she'd be in Inaba. She'd told Shirogane she'd be coming home for her twenty-first birthday, and he'd casually let this information fall to Rise and Yosuke, who had set the plans of a surprise birthday party in motion. According to the timetable, she was going to have dinner with her grandfather, then he'd make an excuse for her to go to the Amagi Inn where all her friends were going to leap out from behind the front desk and make her faint with shock - or reflexively shoot them, one or the other. Kanji quickly stopped thinking about it, irrationally wondering if she'd be able to read the entire plot in his face.
He cleared his throat and floundered for something to say, easing the small leather glove into the counter's shadow, out of her sight. He'd been working on the pair all week. "How's the town look?"
"The same." A brief smile broke over her features. "That's why I love Inaba. Even after everything that's happened, it all...realigns itself to normalcy. I feel sorry for Yukiko-senpai though. I thought her mother would've released her from home arrest by now." She flinched, looking guilty for a moment. "And Chie got her job back. Did Dojima-san have a hand in that?"
"Yeah. Everything seems okay." He shrugged. "The college professors may hold our senpai back a semester though, too many missed classes and exams. Maybe. I hear Souji-senpai's been helping one of them get over his alcohol addiction, so maybe he can pull some strings."
Naoto nodded. It was warm in the textile shop, the many splashes of rain on her coat fading. Smaller drops glittered in her short hair, melting into runnels down her temples. She'd kept her hands in her pockets before, but as she freed one to pull her hair out of her face, Kanji thought it looked clammy. He rubbed the embroidered initials on the back of the glove and wished he had the courage to invite her to sit with him for a while. It was raining. Business would be slow today. He could give her her birthday present early and be certain they'd fit before he finished all the stitching. Though he was already sure.
Naoto sighed. "It's so commonplace. It's like we cope by forgetting everything that's happened."
"We're alive, ain't we?" Kanji asked. "We got plenty of time to remember it when we need to." She gave him a sharp look, then grimaced. He smirked, tentatively. "Don't be mad just 'cause I'm the one who's right."
She freed her hand again to rub the thin bridge of her nose. (Definitely clammy; he wanted to breathe on her fingers to warm them, but he was smarter than that.) "I've been thinking about it so much. It's hard to forget." She burrowed her hand back into her pocket. "There was so many times I thought I wouldn't live to see twenty one. I put us in so much danger..."
"Really pisses me off how you take credit for everything. It's like you think none of us can get into trouble on our own." He was rewarded by the sound of her laugh - and while there was something sharp about it, it was spontaneous and genuine.
"I'm glad you're not Rise," Naoto said, smiling, closing her eyes. "She'd be vexed if she heard me go on like this. And no one pesters like Rise-chan."
"She'll probably tear you a new one - when she sees you again," Kanji amended hastily. He'd nearly said tonight. "If you don't look happy enough for her."
"Hm." Naoto's expression hadn't changed; she looked wonderfully content. Presently, she opened her eyes, a shade of seriousness in her face, and though she tried to keep smiling, it faltered. "I want to thank you, Kanji-kun. You took good care of me back - there." Kanji didn't ask which there she meant: the battle against Kronos, carrying her halfway across Elysion, the escape from Yakushima, the moment he'd hauled a chair at the gang of ghosts who were chasing her down Inaba's streets. Her voice picked up, both in speed and pitch. "I know I'm not always grateful in the heat of the moment. So I wanted to tell you." She glanced to the side and changed tact. "One thing I do miss is this." She lifted her palm but no card appeared. "I know they don't leave us - not without-" She left Kronos' name unsaid. "But I still feel lonely when I can't call him out whenever I want to."
"There's always the TV World," Kanji said. "We can barge in on there whenever we want. Evoke the hell out of 'em. Have a grudge match."
"We should," she said thoughtfully, looking at the counter, not him. "Maybe some time, we could meet there." She glanced up, then away. "I want to see all of you more often. I don't want to stay away, and I want us to be together as long as..." She didn't mention Kirijo or her friends, how their tight bond of friendship had twisted cruelly upon them, become the death of three of them. How it could have happened to themselves, how they might have responded no better. "...as long as possible."
Kanji swallowed; he had no clue what to say. On impulse, he reached above the counter and held out his hand. He expected the surprised jump in her eyebrows, the confused glance into his face. He didn't blame her. In her shoes, he wouldn't have known what to do either. Looking away, he took her cold hand, squeezed her fingers, then released her, dropping his hand into his lap. Glancing up for the briefest moment, he saw how wide her eyes had gone. Okay. Maybe his gesture had communicated a small portion of his thoughts. Shit, was that what he wanted?
In a moment, he was able to look up again and her face had settled back into its characteristic calmness. "It, uh-" he cleared his throat "-it looks like it's letting up."
She glanced back to the storefront. If anything, the rain had gotten heavier, but she smiled. "Are you insulting me with hints, Kanji-kun?"
"Huh? No, I - I wasn't telling you to leave!"
"I probably should get going. I'm spending the day with Grampa. But I'll be sure to see you again, before I leave. If I leave. I may go on a short sabbatical..." Realizing she was rambling, she gave him a wry look. "So I'll go now. Thank you, Kanji-kun."
"Yeah," Kanji said. "See you." And because he refused to watch her as she turned to leave, he bent over his work again, finding the needle, tucking it into the supple black leather, meticulously sewing two halves together.
And looked up again once he heard the door close. Naoto was crossing the street at a jog, hand on her hat, rain sheeting around her, obscuring the window pane. He watched until her figure became a streaming dark blur, then looked down at the glove, running his thumb over its soft palm. Then smiled as he continued his work.