"Souji. Souji, wake up." Nudging him, I retreat back a bit as he stirs, opening his eyes slowly, a crease of anger on his brow.
"Go away, Minato," He grumbles, turning away as it registers to him that he is, indeed, awake, and that yes, it's still dark outside. "It's like, three in the morning…" Pulling the covers up to his nose, he gives a loud groan.
"Can't you give me a few more hours sleep?" I can't help but smile at his reluctance. He knows why I'm so desperate to head out—and that we have no choice. It's a necessary action. After all, he's the reason all this is happening.
"No, Souji. I'm sorry, but we've got work to do," And Yosuke told me that this guy saved an entire town once. You'd think he'd at least realize that, if the both of us want Iwatodai to last, we have to get going—now. "I sense something near the station." Slipping out of his futon, he gets to his feet. At least he listens to sense sometimes.
"Is it a big something?" Crossing the room, he flings open his wardrobe, before plucking out a pair of black jeans and a white shirt. Turning away from me, he pulls off his pajamas, and begins to get dressed. Flopping against a wall and closing my eyes, I concentrate—looking for an answer to his question.
"… Yes. And it has company." As I open my eyes, I see Souji turn towards me, slinging on a jacket—the jacket of his old school, Yasogami High. Even though he's a Gekkoukan student now, he still wears his old uniform on occasion, usually when we're heading into battle. I guess it's the closest thing to a souvenir that he has of his stay in Inaba, since he botched that fusion a few months back. Oh well. I think I'm a pretty good compromise—if I do say so myself. Tossing me a pair of boxing gloves, he grins.
"Hey, since when did you know how to do that telepathy thing?" I smile at his question. Silly Souji. He should know that even I'm not sure about these things.
"I'm getting new abilities all the time." He shrugs in response, and walks towards the door, twisting the handle roughly. Just as he's about to pull it open, he casts me an apologetic look.
"You'd better disappear 'til I'm out of the house, Minato. If my parents hear us, they'll freak out." Nodding, I allow myself to fade out of sight in a golden glow. The tingling sensation is something I'll never grow used to—nor is the sudden switch of perspective, seeing things from Souji's eyes, and being unable to control a single part of the world around me. It's like being in a dream. Only slightly less jarring is assuming my true form; the Persona, Messiah.
Mere weeks ago, Souji and I caught ourselves rejoicing over my apparent humanity, only for our joy to spiral downwards—first, it was the difficulty I had in staying awake. I've always been a tired person. I pushed myself, every hour of the day, when I was alive, trying to pack as much in as I could. Study, friendships, copious numbers of trips to Chagall… I thought it was the same as that, to begin with. After all, trekking across Iwatodai every day takes a lot out of anyone, right? All those trips, back and forwards, between Junpei's flat and Souji's house. I didn't notice that I was at my lowest when I stayed away from Souji. But then one day, after staying up late watching an old superhero film with Junpei, I collapsed, and couldn't move until I had been left in Souji's care for over a day, sleeping.
Shortly after that came the sickness. Every moment I spent outside a kilometer radius of Souji left me on my knees, feeling ready to throw up. Trips to visit my friends had to be called off—immediately. My ever-present bonds to him only made themselves more and more apparent after that.
The headaches, the visions, and the split-second flashes of blonde hair were the only clues any of us received between then and the day it became clear that I was… that I am a Persona. It started as a simple trip to see Ken—Junpei, Souji and I, taking the monorail to Port Island together. Near the end of the journey, I blacked out—Souji and Junpei carried me off the train before anyone could notice and call an ambulance. I've been dead for two years, after all. The authorities wouldn't take kindly to my sudden reappearance. Taking me to the restrooms at the station, the two of them tried to wake me up.
Imagine their shock—and mine too—when every part of me turns a pristine white, and begins to change. I woke up halfway through the transformation, and my thoughts were torn between contemplating the pain I was in, and the horror of what I was becoming. Escaping the fate of being a Persona… I thought I had done just that, but no, I was wrong.
As soon as the sickening sound of bones rearranging disappeared, the three of us realized a fact we had ignored—the fact that, whether I like it or not, I am a Persona, and no force on Earth can change that. Now, if I leave Souji's side for so much as a second, I will be forced into my true form—the tragic figure of Messiah. I was supposed to have been freed from my curse when Souji rescued me from the fate of being Orpheus… So why am I still trapped in a faux body?
Souji walks onto the street, having navigated his house without waking his parents.
"Minato, you can come out now." Separating myself from him, I appear nearby, and slip my headphones over my ears. 'Burn My Dread'. The perfect song for a mission like this. Music always keeps my thoughts at bay.
"Let's get going." Slipping the boxing gloves on, I nod to Souji, who responds similarly. The pair of us break into a sprint, though my pace far exceeds his—and before I know it, my quick movements have spurred my body into transforming… Transforming into that damn Messiah form—blonde, with its long, white limbs, and a strange fixture pinned to its back. Black coffins hang from my left wrist, cold reminders of someone I once knew, in a situation similar to mine. While I never doubted he felt pained over his monstrous body, I couldn't have imagined how awful such a thing truly felt… Until now.
Glancing towards me, Souji holds out a hand, which I grab on to, pulling him along close behind me. After a few moments, I yank him forwards, and swing him up into my arms. He flushes a bright red, but I can't figure out why—is it the fact I'm holding him so close, or a feeling of emasculation at being carried like this? Speeding up, I take long, graceful strides towards our destination, the buildings blurring around us. Souji's eyes have long since squeezed themselves closed, unable to stand my speed. Iwatodai Station can hardly be a block from here, now. Several turns later, we're there—and I sense that the enemy is, too.
"Be careful, Souji," I force myself to change back into my human form—back into Minato; the boy. "This is stronger than the last one." Souji smothers a laugh.
"What?" I ask, looking at him.
"Hey, who's the one who's fainting all the time?" I don't know whether to punch him or chuckle. I should be glad he's making light of my problems, but somehow, it just makes me feel more angry that I'm like this. I probably wouldn't be as hurt if it weren't for the implications my state makes to me. The fact I return to being Messiah when I'm weak, not the other way around… The fact it causes me to faint from exhaustion, spending too long as 'Minato'… The fact it takes effort to be human, rather than to be a monster.
I feel a second pang of remorse for my fallen friend. Ryoji; harbinger of Nyx, the Appriser, Death, Thanatos… He went by a million titles, each more sinister than the last. He strived to be human. Attempted to fit in our culture, and became more closely intertwined with it than I could ever hope to be. He belonged here, and yet he was taken by a similar fate to mine. Was it like this for him? A constant struggle to remain smiling, with a human body and a human face. A struggle for the simplest of things; the ability to eat, and feel, and touch others without breaking them. I've fought this sickness for barely a few weeks, Ryoji lasted only a short while longer than this in his time. Maybe I'll be driven wild by resisting myself like this. Maybe…
"Minato! Look out!" From nowhere, a bolt of electricity flies towards me. I dodge out of the way, just in time, fully aware that so much as a scratch will weaken me enough to force me back into my guise of Messiah. A safer appearance, to be certain, with its mechanical joints and steel skin, but one I don't wish to wear. Immediately switching to the offensive, Souji charges in, katana held firmly in both hands. Swinging it at the monster attacking us, he manages to wound it. I take the time to look it over. It's an Arcana Shadow- the Priestess. I remember it well. A black-and-white lady with a butterfly mask, verging on looking human, save for her intimidating height, staggers back from Souji's blow, wire-like hair snaking about. Her muscles tense, and she deploys a second jolt, this time in his direction. Now's my chance. Tightening my fists, I charge in towards her, posed to punch the creature. One-two, straight to her face. She recoils.
"Go, Souji!" I scream. Ramming his sword into her torso, he draws it back, inky-black blood dripping from it. "Yeah!" I cheer, as he moves in to continue the attack… Only to have the wind knocked out of me as a Shadow rams into my back. Of course! I had forgotten about her henchmen. Snapping around, I give it a strong punch, obliterating it from existence in an explosion of black ink. Returning my attention to Souji, I watch as he is whacked away by the female Shadow. Uh-oh. Running in to help him, I'm met with surprise as she uses a powerful electric spell on me, knocking me down. Damn it… Here comes Messiah.
I lose myself in a rage as the pain overwhelms me. Halfway between human and Persona, I sprint forwards and connect my fist with her face, before using my free hand to grab the Shadow by the neck. Clenching it as tight as I can, I let out a cry.
"Megidalaon!" Golden light surrounds both of us. I feel like nothing is going on… But the Shadow receives a nasty jolt of holy energy. Punch. Punch. Punch. I'm hardly aware of what I'm doing. Nearby, Souji stands, paralyzed, too frightened by my aggressive behavior to move. Am I really doing this? The punching ends. One arm moves instead to the Shadow's tendrils of hair. I grab them roughly and tear them out. No… No… No… Stop it!
Can a Persona with a human spirit go crazy like this? Am I really facing the fate of Ryoji? He was a terrifying Shadow, for such a sweet human… If it happened to him, then it's very likely it'll happen to me. There's no difference between a Shadow and a Persona, after all. My body continues moving in its berserker rage, tearing the creature limb-from-limb, like some sort of wild animal. Letting out a final cry, the Shadow falls limp and begins to fade, just before I can wrench its head from its body.
… And so I turn to Souji.
"Minato?" He chokes, as I begin to advance towards him, black Shadow blood on my metallic white hands. Hands, outstretched, with tense muscles. And I'm reaching for his neck.
Just before I can touch him, I seize up, and collapse, forcing myself back into human form with the last of my strength. How could I even think of harming Souji?
"… Forgive me…" He dashes forward and catches me before I can hit the ground. The last thing I see is his heartbroken expression. He probably hates himself, for falling in love with a monster.
I hate myself for falling in love with a saint.