I'm bound to a wall, splayed out with my arms spread wide and my legs chained together. The room is white, with a skylight in the ceiling, allowing in dim yellow light from the rounded moon. I drift in and out of consciousness, my eyes fixated on the thick metal door across the room. Any minute now, I tell myself, Souji is going to burst in with Yosuke and Ken, and save me. As time drags on, it becomes increasingly unlikely. The hours tick by, painfully slowly. Each moment chained here seems to take an eon. I don't know how much more of it I can take.
As the moon begins to sink in the sky, I hear a noise from the doorway. A lock clicks, the handle twists, and in steps an unfamiliar man. He's wearing a cap, tilted down to hide his eyes. My heart leaps up inside of me.
"Junpei?" I ask. The man shakes his head; no. He's not Junpei. I feel more disappointed than I should be. Why would Junpei have been snooping around here, anyway? And besides, Junpei's hair is short—like a buzz-cut. This guy's hair is long, almost down to his shoulders. He's got a slender build, too. Junpei's a lot more masculine than whoever this guy is. After a moment more of looking, I realize that the stranger, though reasonably tall, isn't that much older than I am—only eighteen or nineteen. A smirk spreads across his face, sending a chill down my spine.
"Funny where fate's stuck you, isn't it, Minato?" That voice… I recognize it, but I can't put my finger on why. The man—no, the boy—reaches up to his hat, and begins to lift it off. His hair underneath it is messy, but a quick movement of his hand smoothes it all down, save for two stray bits of fringe. Opening his eyes, I feel a pang of joy as I recognize the multiple tones of blue—light around the outside, dark on the inside, devoid of pupils. At the corner of his left eye is a small black beauty spot. His eyebrows are cut amusingly short.
"Ryoji." I whisper.
"Yeah," He looks about a year older, but it's definitely him. I'm surprised I didn't notice the yellow scarf sooner. "It's me alright." I'm not going to bother asking how he got in. He probably wouldn't have an answer.
"What're you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same, Minato. Top secret cult HQ, chained to a wall, none of your friends with you… you're lucky I showed up, the way I see it," And of course, Ryoji tries to put a positive spin on things. Already, I can see in his face that he's worried, and that he's utterly clueless as to why he's here. "Why do you always end up in these situations?" He asks me, after a moment of silence. All I can do is shrug.
"I blame you," I don't mean it, of course, though it is true—if it weren't for Ryoji, I'd be living a normal life right now, as a twenty-year-old man, not a giant humanoid monster. Stirred into action by Ryoji's appearance, I twist and turn a bit, trying to throw off the chains. Ryoji watches me, silent. After a minute or so of struggling, I relax again. "Can I have some help?" Ryoji shakes his head, almost immediately.
"I don't think I'm allowed to interfere in things like this." And, of course, he's still following Nyx's rules—don't do this, don't do that, remember-- mother Nyx knows best. I'm a little amused by the revelation, but more annoyed than anything. Why does Ryoji have to be so obedient all the time?
"So what, Minato? It's not like I could help, even if I wanted to," What? "What do you think I'm here for?" He looks at me with a faux smile.
"I think you're here to drag me back up there, honestly," I glance up at the moon. Ryoji smiles sadly, and shakes his head.
"I'm sorry… For once, I'm not out on her orders." I try to process everything that's come up so far, in the hopes of understanding what's going on, but only one thing sticks out for me.
"Cult HQ?" Ryoji looks amused by my question.
"Kidnappers these days… Don't even have the decency to tell you who they are," Motioning around us, Ryoji's expression quickly shifts to a more serious one. "This is the new Nyx Cult HQ." Nyx cult?! But they were wiped out after the Fall… weren't they? I mean, with Takaya and Jin gone they wouldn't have had a leader, and in theory they'd have all forgotten about what happened, too, so... how did they reform?
"I know what you're thinking; but you have to remember, they were very influential in their heyday. Minato… When I brought the Fall, more than a few Persona users were awakened, all over the world. That forced exposure to the Dark Hour caused a fair few people with potential to truly come to the surface… including four, right here in Iwatodai," Flicking his scarf back over his shoulder, Ryoji closes his eyes, trying to think of who they are. "… Tonae, Tougo, Kureno, and one other. I've only done enough snooping to find out that. At the time, they were all in Takaya's old cult." Beginning to walk backwards and forwards across the room, his mouth dips into an annoyed position.
"They've been trying to create a second Fall. Only, for a while, that was hard, because of the fact that you and I were both locked out there in space. But then, when you got dragged out of the Seal, they caught wind of it, and tried to summon me here. Long story short, it was botched—like last time—and they forgot that we're supposed to act as counterbalance for each other. You're the Wild Card, I'm the Shadow… or, this time, it's the other way around," Looking at me sympathetically, he seems lost in his thoughts for a moment, but quickly snaps back into life. "But that fact can change at a moment's notice. I'm still the only one capable of becoming Nyx's herald, so if you were to transfer the energy of the thirteen Shadows to me, we'd be looking at the same situation as in 2009."
"And how would that happen?"
"You'd need to die… and trust me, the cult is ready to kill you if they have to. As it stands, they think you're the key to getting Nyx back. I've been looking around since you defeated the Hanged Man and drew me here, and I've learnt a thing or two about them, but not much," Turning away as though moving to exit, Ryoji gave the smallest of smiles. "Minato, this is where we say goodbye. You have to buy me enough time to assemble what's left of S.E.E.S and get this fixed up."
"What?" I don't want Ryoji to go, not when I've only just met back up with him… I don't want to be alone.
"If they find me, they'll torture me until I tell them how to summon Nyx. I'm human now, I can't take that," His feet begin to carry him away from me. Ryoji, don't go…
"If you have to leave…" I whisper. Ryoji freezes. "… Then at least find Souji Seta for me, and tell him that I'm sorry for getting us into this mess." Ryoji doesn't need more of an explanation. He nods, and continues to walk towards the door out.
"Will do. Bye, Minato," He waves back at me, and closes the door. I hear the click of a lock. Human my ass- Ryoji's still got those weird powers of his, even if they aren't as prominent as they used to be. Slumping down in my restraints, I feel suddenly weak.
I think… that I'm on my last legs. For real, this time. And when I croak, no magic trick of Souji's is going to bring me back. This is it. This is really it. The cult's going to kill me… and all I can do is prolong the time it takes.
Ryoji, you're a liar. You know everything… you just don't want to hurt me. You've always been weak like that. Too afraid to see what bad news does to people. Well, Ryoji, you're better to be truthful than a liar. No-one likes someone who sugarcoats the facts.
… Goodbye, Souji.