Here is chapter 7, up faster than normal. I'll see if I can't get chapter 8 up sometime in the next week and a half, because then I'll be in China for 2 weeks. But you guys are used to long periods between updates, aren't you?
A shout out to people who reviewed – blackfang27 (Thank you for pointing out that edit), Sacchin, Hiwasa Kana, Leomitch, KO, orangewaterbottles, Yuri18 y Tsuki500, lee007, TomoyaJintanUshio.
TomoyaJintanUshio – Yeah, the symbology between them is important to the story, especially since they're the two main characters. And while Messiah would've been a good idea, I went with something a little more in-theme with Persona 4. Hope you'll understand the reference.
Everyone stood gaping at the shadow, my shadow if one was to believe what Chie said. A reflection of myself, that was a concerning though. I grunted, getting back up to my feet, and brushed off my pants. That was ridiculous; there was no way that thing was me. Although…the words it said did strike a little close to home.
I turned to Narukami, "I don't suppose you have an extra sword on you by chance?" I asked. His only response was to throw one to me, and I caught it deftly.
"So," I started, "let's get rumbling."
"Wait, Arisato." Narukami called from behind me, with enough force in his voice to make me stop. "We should hang back, see if we can find a weakness," he stood at the ready, his persona floating behind him. I saw Chie and the others readying themselves as well. "We don't stand a chance against something like that unless we're cautious."
"I am the shadow, the true self," the shadow rumbled, making us all face it once again, "Allow me to show you true power." And with that, the shadow swung the flame cloaked sword at us.
"Izanagi!" shouted Narukami, his persona moving to halt the blade; Yosuke's joining in as well.
With the blade halted, I charged at the beast. All I would need is a stepping stone and I could get to its head. I ducked under a hand swipe, but missed the follow up and felt myself fly into one of the walls.
"Minato-senpai!" Yukiko shouted, casting a healing spell on me. I felt my bones begin to fix themselves and my ribs stop aching a bit. "Be careful, we can't just charge in. He'll just bat us away with the arms.
I got back up to my feet, and saw Narukami trying a variety of persona on the beast. Izanagi and its lightning. Pyro Jack and its flame. King Frost and its ice. I recognized the persona he was using; not too long ago I had been calling on them myself.
'Thanatos, are you there?' I called out, hoping to hear an answer. The dark persona still did not answer me. 'Messiah? Orpheus?'
I didn't have time to continue searching; the blade of fire was once again sweeping in my direction. I ducked under it, and then ran over to Narukami, who had been knocked down by one of the arms. "Back on your feet, Narukami," I said, pulling him up, "Any idea what this thing is weak to?"
He took a moment to breathe, before saying, "Well, it's your shadow. What do you like the least?"
I blinked, processing what he said, "That thing is not me, it's only a shadow," I scoffed, "I'll humor you though. Try wind; never been a big fan of big gusts."
"Yosuke!" Narukami yelled, grabbing the other boy's attention, "Try wind!"
Yosuke nodded, "Jiraiya, garula!"
The shadow gave a yowl of pain, dropping to one knee and propping itself up with the blade. It turned its attention to Yosuke, and narrowed its eyes. "Pesky little fly," it said, before using four arms and batting Jiraiya and Yosuke into a wall, taking them out of the fight, "Learn your place before me."
"I've got them, focus on the fight!" Yukiko shouted as she ran over to Yosuke, who was moaning in pain from the blow. After checking him over quickly, she shouted again, "He'll be fine, just hurry!"
'Thanatos, please…where are you?' I screamed in my mind, desperately feeling out for any persona that I could call on. 'I need you, I need somebody!'
"Focus, Arisato!" Narukami said, tackling me so my head wouldn't be taken off by the sword, "Don't go weirding out on me!"
I grunted and picked myself back up. Chie was directing her persona in the fight, but it seemed like Yosuke was the only one who had any penchant for wind. "Narukami, do you anything that can use wind or was Yosuke the only one?"
The grey haired boy narrowed his eyes in thought, then reached out and shouted, "Fortuna, garu!"
The persona materialized in front of us, and let loose the gales, not before the shadow smacked Chie with the flat side of the sword. She spiraled into one of the walls, clearly unconscious and out of the fight.
"Izanagi!" Narukami shouted charging and the downed shadow with his sword at the ready. "Attack it while it's down, Arisato!"
I nodded, and charged in as well. The bestial face glared up at me, and reached out to grab me with one of its arms. Weaving under it, and lunged forward with the sword and slashed the beast across the face while Narukami stabbed it.
"Pests…Learn your place!" the beast shouted before sending us back with a shockwave, "You can struggle and fight all you want, but still you're confined to what you are. You cannot change your roles in fate, no matter how fervently you believe otherwise." The beast stood at its full height, and pulled out Narukami's sword, which had embedded itself in its cheek, "You are doomed to amount to nothing, your efforts to prove fruitless," the shadow said, looking down at me, "You will die again, and it will be just as pointless as it was before. You won't save anyone. You can't save anyone."
Narukami started to pull himself back up to his feet, but the beast leaned down to pick him, tossing him towards the wall. Yukiko screamed and ran over to him. It was me and it now.
"The world relied on you, and you delivered; yet it cost you not only years of your life, but the life of a woman who loved you. This time, the world needs your help again. Yet will it just amount to you having to sacrifice yourself to create another seal to hold back these shadows, or whatever fell beast commands them?" the shadow was standing directly over me now, and all I could do was back away from it. The sword Narukami had thrown me laid too far away for me to grab.
"Let the world burn. Maybe it will rise all the stronger from the ashes. Perhaps the world shall be purged of the negativity that created the shadows. The world doesn't need saving anymore." The shadow raised the sword above me, grasping it with all of its arms, "Rest easy now. The burden of the world is no longer on your shoulders. You don't have to be the hero anymore; the world will burn without you."
I watched the sword descend, growing closer and closer. My body was bruised and my ribs were broken again. Guess this really was it…
'Are you really giving up that easily?' a voice resounded in my head, time seemingly stopping as the blade halted feet from my head, 'Do you remember why you wanted to become the hero in the first place?'
'What made you decide to create the seal?'
My mind flashed back to the times at the dorms, Akihiko, Shinji, Junpei, Koromaru, Yukari, Ken, Fuuka, Aigis, Kazushi, Yuko, Chihiro, Mutatsu, Maya, all of my friends from those times…and most of Mitsuru.
'I wanted to save my friends,' I answered, being honest with the voice, 'I wanted to make sure they pulled through…I wanted to keep Mitsuru smiling.'
'Those aren't bad reasons for wanting to be the hero at all, aren't they? And if you die here, who will protect them? Do you trust anyone else to be able to make that kind of sacrifice again? Would you let anyone else make that sacrifice? So come one, get back up; I know you have it in you.'
The voice sounded strangely familiar and felt as though it had been with me before, 'Messiah?'
A light chuckle filled my mind, 'Not quite, but a fair enough assumption. I'll help pull you through this mess just this once, alright Minato?'
"MINATO!" Yuu shouted, having returned to consciousness just as the blade came swinging down at the blue haired boy. Chie and Yosuke stirred earlier, and watched in muted horror as the blade came ever closer to slicing the boy in half.
Yuu hurriedly tried to summon Izanagi to block the sword, but blinding light filled the area, forcing him to have to cover his eyes. After a brief moment, Yuu could see a vague outline of a man stopping the sword with his hand, turning a speaking something to Minato. The light then condensed around the figure's hand, leaving Yuu enough time to catch a glimpse of a butterfly mask before an explosion rocked the area.
As the dust cleared, Yuu saw Minato standing back up, while the shadow reverted back to its original form. Minato looked around for a brief second, then started walking towards the shadow.
"Yukiko," Yuu rasped, "Help me up please." Wrapping an arm around her shoulder, he began walking slowly in the direction of Minato and the shadow.
"You know," Yukiko started, "That's the first time you called Minato-sempai by his first name."
Yuu just grunted, and saw Chie and Yosuke approaching as well from the corner of his eyes. Chie was helping Yosuke with a bad limp. Yuu could also hear Teddie's tell-tale squeaking footsteps behind him.
They all watched in silence as Minato stared down at his shadow, which was breathing with ragged breaths. The blue haired man approached the shadow, and stared down at it.
"…What you said was true," I started, making eye contact with the shadow that shared my face, "I did think it was unfair that I had to die to make the seal, when most of the world didn't even know what was going on. To make matters worse, they all lost their memories of Tartarus until the end of the year. It wasn't fair at all." I clenched my fists, ignoring the pain of my nails digging into my palm, "And now it seemed like I would have to do it all over again."
"Minato…" Yuu said, making an attempt to stand on his own.
"But it won't come to that again. I didn't want to be the hero; I just wanted to be normal. You were right all along. But 'normal' is relative," I said, looking back at the people assembled behind me. My eyes made contact with Yuu's, and we reached an understanding with one another, "I was normal back then with S.E.E.S., and I'm normal now still. I was never the hero, I was just a part of the team. I understand that now."
I looked back down at the shadow that shared my face, my shadow. It had a pleased expression in its eyes, and the rage had left its eyes. I stood over it and offered my hand to it, pulling it back up to its feet. I looked it in the eyes, "You are me. I am you. You're what I've been bottling up and not facing."
It smiled, not one of sick amusement or deranged insanity, but a smile of pride, the pride one feels when a particular challenge has been overcome. "Very good," it said, before a light enveloped it.
When the light stopped shining, a figure floated where the shadow once was. I looked the group, who simply nodded as if this was supposed to happen, and then I faced the persona.
It had red tinged skin that was lined with runes, and a sword sat idly on its waist. Baggy pants and a muscular torso led to dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. Completely white eyes stared back at me, and you could feel the power, fiery and unrelenting, emanating from it.
"I am Kagu-tsuchi, advent of death and fire, born at the end of the creation of the world," its eyes flickered to Yuu for a brief moment, then focused back on me, "Use my power to face the world."
And with that, the persona disappeared and I felt the weight of persona in my soul return to me. I briefly searched to Thanatos, or any of the others, but nothing immediately surfaced. I would ponder it later, since it seemed the others were waiting on me to say something.
"Well…" I said, turning around, "I suppose an explanation is in order, isn't it?"
Yuu held up his hand, "Not right now; tell us when you're ready," his eyes narrowed, and I picked up the unspoken message. He would have me explain at some point, "I think we're all pretty beaten for today. Yosuke, how many days until it rains?"
"If I remember right, we've got a good week or two," Yosuke said, before giving a yelp of pain, "Ouch! Dammit, Chie, watch how hard you squeeze!"
I chuckled softly, noting how badly my ribs hurt. At least the girl had the decency to blush.
"Let's get out of here," Teddie said. We all readily voiced our agreement.
"So," Yuu started as he sat at the edge of the of my hospital bed, "You want to explain what that shadow was talking about?"
Without Orpheus to patch me up, and Yukiko herself had been to exhausted, I had little choice but to head to the hospital. "Well, it's kind of a long story," I said, trying to dodge the question.
"Then make it short."
"But then you'd miss all the cliff hangers and juicy bits – really, it would be better to wait."
I sighed, running a hand through my hair. I really didn't want to do this now. "I'm serious Yuu, I really don't feel up to telling the tale right now. Suffice to say, it has to do with my knowledge about the shadows and my 'death'." I held up a hand to keep him from protesting, "You'll find out in due time."
Yuu nodded, a little disgruntled, but let the topic slide. "There's another thing I'm curious about though, what was that persona you summoned when your shadow was about to kill you, the one with the butterfly mask?"
"I don't know," I answered honestly, "It just sort of appeared out of nowhere. Didn't really seem like a persona either, it felt like it was acting of its own accord."
Yuu nodded, seeming deep in thought, "The mask, from the bit I could see, resembled the butterflies that I see near the Velvet Room and in the TV."
I waved him off, "Don't think too deep on it. More importantly, you need to go back into the shadow world and get Tatsumi out. The doctors said my ribs aren't in a great condition, so I'm stuck here for a couple days while they watch them."
Yuu nodded, then stood to get up, "You want your schoolwork?" he asked.
"Eh, I'm not worried about exams at all, but sure, pick it up for me."
"I'll see if I can't get someone to bring it if I can't."
I nodded back to him, "Thanks. Tell Daidara I'll be back at work soon. Don't look at me like that, there's only one place in this town to get weapons like those."
Yuu gave a careless wave and walked out of the door of my room, deftly avoiding a nurse who I heard calling his name from out in the hallway.
I regarded the doorway where Yuu just was. Something had changed between us, not as much animosity anymore. A respect of power had replaced it, a feeling of reliability in a tight spot replacing it.
'Thanatos, are you there?'
He is not here, Kagu-tsuchi answered, His presence was gone long before I was here.
I frowned, that was very concerning…and upsetting. Thanatos had been a constant with me, always there, even if I didn't know it. He was also the only one who had stood by me the whole time during the seal.
'Kagu-tsuchi, can you see if you can sense him, or perhaps go out and find him?'
As you wish, the quiet persona said, before receding from mind. I let out a sigh, my heart feeling slightly emptier from the dark persona's absence.
I closed my eyes, best get some rest. The more rest I get, the sooner I get out of here.
I hate hospitals.
"Miss Kirijo, I have news for you."
"Yes, what is it?"
"There's been a hit on that name, Arisato Minato."
Well, there is chapter 7. Mitsuru now knows that somebody is using that name, whether or not its him is unknown. A confrontation...we'll see how soon it comes along. I've ALWAYS sucked at writing those kinds of scenes.
Thank you those of you who stuck through to and past this chapter; I'm sure that fight scene was painful to read.