Notes: Although I don't normally plan on making epilogues, reading everyone's reviews always makes me want to give something more, even though the story has finished. This is a prime example. I had fully intended to end Alluring Mystery on a sad note, but because of so many kind reviews, I decided to write more. So this epilogue was written for all of you, and I hope you enjoy it. ^_^

So of course, I have to thank all of you!

*witchjuliana12: Here is the epilogue that I promised! I apologize for taking so long. ^^;;
*The Detective Prince: Thank you so much! I'm glad you think so. ^^ And I agree; I think the death of the protagonist is what makes this game really great.
*Kenida: Writing as Ryoji is a lot of fun, and surprisingly easy. I would've liked to delve into the Rank 10/Nyx Avatar scenes in this story, but I already covered them in a different story, "Make Your Decision," and didn't want to repeat myself. I hope you understand, and thanks for your review!
*AngelMiku: The Moonlight Bridge scene was especially fun to write. I watched the cutscene from the original Persona 3 game to get into the mood, and it's an amazing cutscene. It really inspired me to write. ^^
*aprilsierra: Thank you for always reviewing! Your reviews always make me feel as if I'm doing something right. ^_^
*haitechan: You're welcome! Thank you for reading! ^^
*Rubix: The story of Romeo and Juliet really suit Ryoji and Minako. And thank you! I tried really hard to make the way Ryoji remembered was slow, mysterious, and dramatic. I think it helped make some sense as to why in the game, Ryoji was progressively getting more and more worried about the future.
*Tristes: Well, this chapter isn't about after the nyx fight, and although I feel as if I am shamelessly advertising, I did write a chapter after the fight with Nyx in another story, "Make Your Decision."
*blazblue-domo: Haha, well it's not quite the end. Everyone asking for more made me want to write more, so I hope you like this chapter!
*Ekhary: =w= Thank you for saying so! Writing a story that follows the canon sometimes worries me since everyone knows what's coming, so I worked hard to make the emotions and inner conflict right, since we don't get as much of that in the game. ^^
*Arekkushi-chan: Wow, you really cried? It sounds kinda mean to say, but that makes me happy. ^^;; I'm glad you could feel the same emotions as the characters. Since everyone knows the story (aside from the original scenes), I tried to use emotion to add something more, and I'm glad you could follow along with them! XD
*Nacreous Clouds: Thank you! Of course you can use this as reference! (I feel so honored ^^;;) As long as you don't copy. ^_~ Although I don't know what kind of crossover you're planning, I would love to see how your story turns out.


Epilogue – Fate

Everything was…fuzzy.

Even as he collapsed to the ground, Ryoji could still see the sickly green light of the Dark Hour through his closed eyes. His consciousness faded in and out as he lay in the middle of the Moonlight Bridge, and he could hear the faint sound of footsteps. Ryoji opened his eyes, and Minako was there at his side. She looked so worried…and sad.

How…how could I do this to her?

He felt that familiar warmth in his hand as Minako held it. Her grip was tight, as if she were afraid he would disappear. (Disappear…?) Her hand shook; she was afraid, but of what? Scared of him? …She had every right to be. This was the result of opening Pandora's Box, what his feelings of dread and regret were trying to warn him of. His eyes opened as he reached to touch her cheek. "I'm sorry" was all he could say, but an apology would never be enough.

Why can't I stop it?

Ryoji's consciousness was on the brink of fading out, and his hand fell away from her cheek, but he could still feel the warmth from her hand that held his. He loved those warm hands; it was how they should always be: warm and comforting. Ryoji allowed his eyes to close, trying to take what comfort he could from those warm hands.

Then her hands suddenly turned cold.

He quickly came to his senses, his consciousness suddenly returning, and opened his eyes. The Moonlight Bridge was gone, but the sky was still green. The full moon was much closer than before, bringing its eerie glow ever closer to Earth. Ryoji stood on a large, silver platform. The wind blew strongly, he could see nothing but the green sky past the edge of the platform, and he realized where he was: the top of Tartarus.

Ryoji looked down, remembering feeling Minako's hand turn cold. He still felt something in his hand, something cold and lifeless. He looked down slowly, afraid of what he would see. Minako's hand was still clasped in his, but its comforting warmth was gone. Her hand lead down to her still body, lying at his feet, and her once cheerful eyes stared back at him blankly, as if…all the life in it had been drained away.

"Minako-chan…"

She was dead.

No… His whole body shook, he didn't want to believe what he was seeing, but he never let go of her hand. It couldn't be true. It was just…how could someone so lively be so… cold. But those blank, dead eyes stared back at him, reminding him of how real it was. Ryoji could deny it all he wanted, but…his mere existence was proof that this was going to happen, even to her.

"Minako-chan!"

Then Ryoji woke up.

Warm sunlight poured in through the open windows. A gentle breeze moved the curtains, giving the room a much more comfortable feeling compared to the green Dark Hour moonlight. Ryoji's hands gripped his bed sheets tightly in both hands, his face felt damp with sweat, and he looked around the plain, empty room. The room's layout looked familiar, but very empty, only furnished with the bed he lay in and a simple desk. But, even though the room itself was unfamiliar, Ryoji knew he was at the Iwatodai Dorm.

He sat up slowly, wiping the sweat off his forehead with his sleeve. Junpei had said there was an unused room on the boy's floor in the dorm. Maybe that was where Ryoji was now. Seeing the room lit up with sunlight made Ryoji's nightmare seem less real, but the image of Minako's cold, dead stare was still enough to make Ryoji shudder. Slowly, his memory came back. He remembered collapsing on the bridge after SEES arrived that night, and although Ryoji didn't know how much time had passed since then, the fact that they allowed him to stay at their dorm was something he had a hard time believing.

But they were willing to trust him, even knowing who he really was, so he would have to tell them everything he knew, even if there was nothing they could do to stop their unfortunate fate.

A small note placed on the desk, weighted down by Ryoji's cell phone, caught his eye. Ryoji got out of bed and picked up the piece of paper. Written in a very small, neat handwriting was a note from Mitsuru, asking Ryoji to contact her when he awoke. They would hear out what he had to say, and at the bottom she had written her cell number. Ryoji checked his phone for the time; it was nearly the end of school, and it seemed Ryoji was out cold for a good while.

Then, another note caught his eye, a smaller piece of paper hidden underneath Mitsuru's. The message was short, but it was the sender's name that made Ryoji's heart stop.

Don't be afraid to tell us the truth. We'll accept it, and you, no matter how bad it is.

Minako

Ryoji stared at her message, reread it over and over, and despite everything that will inevitably happen, he felt a slight sense of relief. She was there, in the room with him, and her trust and faith in him had not been broken. That girl…she always did have a knack for knowing just the right thing to say. It did make him feel a little better, but just the fact that they were willing to hear him out was more than he expected. Ryoji had been afraid that everyone would be afraid of him, or reject him completely, but he had received the opposite.

But no matter what he told them, there was nothing they could do to avoid The Fall. Nyx will descend to Earth in two months, and not even The Appriser would be able to stop it. Inevitable death…it would make anyone sad, even her, and the last thing he wanted was to be responsible for making Minako loose her smile. Ryoji thought hard as he dialed Mitsuru's number. There had to be something he could do.

He remembered his dream; her hand becoming cold, that cold, blank stare…her tight grip on the Moonlight Bridge, as if she thought he would disappear…

Something he could do to avoid this fate…

The phone rang on the other end, and Mitsuru's calm voice answered.

(disappear…)

Something…anything…to make her smile again…

{00}

He told them everything.

That night, SEES gathered around Ryoji in the command room, all of them waiting for him to explain, and explain he did. He told them everything, about Nyx, everyone forfeiting the will to live, and while Ryoji avoided eye contact out of guilt, he couldn't help but sneak occasional glances at Minako. He sat at the armchair, and she sat at the couch next to him. She sat perfectly still, her hands folded in her lap and carefully listened to everything he said with a very serious expression. With mere glances, he had no idea what she was thinking or how she was taking the news.

But her expression never changed, not even a small smile to encourage him to continue speaking. And that probably scared him the most.

"The Fall…" Mitsuru said quietly, as if she couldn't believe it.

"But, it's still possible to keep it from happening, right?" Yukari asked hopefully. She stared at Ryoji, waiting for an answer, but all he could do was stare shamefully to the ground. "Wh-what…?" she said, seeing his sorrowful expression, "There's no way to prevent it…?"

She said it. Plain as day for everyone to hear. No matter what they did, defeating Nyx was simply impossible. "…I'm sorry…" was all Ryoji could choke out. His voice sounded weak and scared, like he was about to cry. He didn't want it to sound like that, since it would only frighten everyone more, but…he couldn't help it. His existence was proof of The Fall's inevitability, and…how could he possibly make it up to them for existing? The end of humanity…in two months time…

He glanced at Minako, who only looked down to her folded hands as she pondered their imminent demise.

Then, Junpei laughed. "Wh-what are you guys freaking out about?" he asked, "All we have to do is defeat this Nyx!" His cheerfulness…sounded forced. As if he were in a state of denial. "And that won't be a problem cuz we've never lost!"

Minako finally smiled, a slightly forced one, to match Junpei's mood. "Yeah! We'll beat it!" In her eyes, Ryoji could see it. Being the optimist that she is, she was trying to find hope, even if she wasn't sure the hope was real.

And Ryoji…hated to crush that hope. "Defeating Nyx is…impossible."

Impossible…with that one word, all the hope everyone tried to find had disappeared. The hope had brought a small light back into their eyes, but just like a candle, it was quickly extinguished. Blown out by a strong wind. A strong wind that, like Death, or Nyx, can't be stopped. Completely natural, and completely unstoppable. No matter how hard, this was a truth they had to accept.

They had to accept it, or else…the only option he could give them would never work.

Ryoji thought long and hard after he got of the phone with Mitsuru. He was born form a collection of Shadows, but now he had a human form, so he was able to physically interact with everyone. He had a human form, consciousness, free will; Minako gave him all of that. She gave him "humanity."

And that was the key. Because all living things, as naturally as the blowing wind, can and will die.

He had found the only way he could help. The precious gift he received from Minako…allowed him to give them a choice.

He looked to Minako. "You'll have to…kill me."

Everyone was shocked by what he said, but Minako was the most surprised. Her eyes widened in horror, she let out a gasp, and her hands unfolded, pulled back by her surprise. Their eyes met, and he knew she couldn't believe what he was asking of her. But he tried to explain, how death by her hands would erase everyone's memories of the Dark Hour and delay Nyx's coming. They could live in peace, and she'd be able to smile again. But he could see it in her eyes: she didn't want him to ask this of her. In her eyes, she begged him for another option, but he couldn't give her one. His death was the only way, so he had to convince her…and everyone else.

"If you don't kill me, you will suffer more than you can ever imagine. With no hope for salvation, you will live every day paralyzed by the fear of your impending death." The fear of inevitable death…was something no one should have to endure. Ryoji looked down so he wouldn't meet anyone's eyes, and his voice came out weak again. "And I…I don't want you to have to endure such pain."

Minako stared at him, weighing her options, thinking about the things she had to do. After all, since she was the only one who could kill him, ultimately, the decision, to choose how everyone will die, will belong to her. She looked torn, almost unsure of what to say, but with clenched fists, she finally spoke.

"I could never kill you…"

She was so kind, and somewhere deep down, he was happy she would say that, but Ryoji couldn't be taken in by it. This time, her voice sounded weak, but Ryoji couldn't blame her. No one should have to make a decision like this, and he hated forcing it on her. He hated it so much, her pained expression, her weak voice… He wanted her to smile again, but…he had to keep telling himself this was the only way. He was willing to offer his life for the sake of everyone's…her happiness. Or at least, the longest happiness he could provide. He had to convince them this was the best way.

He stood up from his seat, telling them that they don't have to decide right away. After December 31, he would dissolve into the blackness of the Dark Hour, so they would have a month to make their decision. And furthermore, he would disappear with the coming of Nyx, so his death…isn't something they need to worry about. No matter what happens, no matter what decision they come to, after New Year's Eve, Ryoji Mochizuki would be gone.

And he saw Minako's face when she realized this. …What kind of person was he to make the person he loved so close to tears?

"I'll be back on New Year's Eve."

Without even a word of farewell, he turned on his heel and left the dorm. With the door closed behind him, he walked out into the cold winter night. Shivering despite his yellow scarf, he couldn't believe it was only a few days before that he stood in the same spot, giggling about how he had made Minako blush by telling her he wanted to see her room. Those times…those happy, innocent times, felt like they happened a long time ago. He slowly walked down the street, and her voice from those innocent times still sounded so clear in his mind.

"You're very kind, Ryoji. And you're sincere…and that's what I really like about you…"

"And…he had the same birthmark as you…"

"You can touch air and know it exists, but you can't hold it in your arms…"

"…Ryoji!"

He stopped. That voice…was real. He turned around, and Minako was there, not even wearing a jacket and running after him on the street. How ironic. He thought he was the one always chasing after her, but the roles have reversed. He sighed. He had wanted to leave before anyone would have a chance to come after him, but he got too lost in his memories. Yet, he could not deny that somewhere in his heart, he wanted a chance to at least talk with her alone one last time.

She finally reached him. "Why…do you have to leave? Can't you stay here?"

He knew she would ask this. He looked to the ground, unable to meet her sad, pleading eyes. "I can't. If I were to stay, it would surely influence the decision you have to make."

"That doesn't matter!" She said loudly, "I already know my choice; I made it when you first told us. And you and I both know I will be the one to ultimately decide." She grabbed his hands, and he felt that familiar warmth. "So please…"

"I could never kill you…"

He could hear the desperation in her voice. For her to say such a thing, as if the opinions of the other SEES members were irrelevant, was proof of how frantic she was. She really wanted him to stay, despite knowing everything. And as much as Ryoji wanted to…he couldn't.

"I'm sorry," was all he could say. "I'm sorry…that I'm making you have to decide on something so awful. I'm sorry…this is all my fault." He gripped her hands tighter, trying to convey his feelings as best he could, because multiple apologies would never be enough. "I'm not…even worthy of being near you. Being what I am…"

"It doesn't matter what you are," she said firmly, "You're still Ryoji."

He still couldn't meet her eyes. "That name…doesn't even apply to me anymore."

"If that's so, then…why did you look to me when I called?"

Finally, he looked up and met her eyes. She was serious, and her grip on his hands was as tight as ever. It didn't matter if he was a Shadow, the thirteenth arcana, or the Appriser. To her, he would always be "Ryoji." After all, what was in a name? Everything that he was, good or bad, all encompassed into the person she loved, no matter what name he assumed. And the most precious gift he could receive from her, his humanity was called "Ryoji." That was something important he should never forget.

Both their grip relaxed slightly, and Ryoji gave a small smile. "When I met you," he said slowly, "I thought there was something mysterious about you, and that mystery was…rather alluring. I thought that was why I was interested in you, but I soon realized that there were more wonderful things that I loved about you." Her warm hands, her kind heart, everything…encompassed into the one he loved. "But now I think that, even if I never met you in this form, you would be the only one I'd have these feelings for." His grip on her hands tightened again. "After all, you were the one who gave me my humanity."

He loved her. He loved her so much. He wanted to hug her, kiss her, say "I love you" outright, do anything in his power to convey how strong his feelings were. His hands shook from his desire to tell her everything…but he couldn't. Not that night. Minako had said she had already made her choice, but there was still time…she should think about it more. Everyone should. But if he did anything, if he did everything he wanted, it would surely influence her decision. So, for the same reason he couldn't stay, he couldn't properly tell her how he felt. Not that night.

But I will tell her…I'll tell her "I love you," on New Year's Eve.

Ryoji looked into Minako's eyes, and he knew she understood what he wanted to convey.

They stood there for a long time in silence, holding each other's hands. But they both knew that the longer they dragged this out, the more it would hurt for both of them, so reluctantly, Ryoji let go of her hands, and Minako did not move to take them back.

"I'll be back…on New Year's Eve," he said, only allowing himself to gently touch her cheek.

Minako held his hand, and for the last time until New Year's Eve, Ryoji felt its warmth. "Take care of yourself."

Ryoji smiled and turned his back to her, continuing down the road until he turned the corner. Minako did not move from her spot until Ryoji was completely out of sight. And when he was, without thinking, she made a mad dash for the corner, unsure of what she would do if he were there. But of course, he wasn't. The street was empty, and Minako was alone outside on that cold winter night. Ryoji was gone.

But he would be back. Ryoji was kind, sincere, and would never break a promise.

"You know what?" Minako said aloud, and she heard her voice being carried by the wind. "I kinda liked the alluring mystery about you too…"

{00}

This is our fate.

I have no doubts.

I have no regrets.

If we can't be together, then so be it.

I'll be grateful for the time we had.

This is our fate.

And I am glad to have met you.

I love you too, Ryoji.


Notes: Alright, finally, "Alluring Mystery" has ended. I think this is the longest story I have ever written, but it's possibly one of my favorites. I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I loved writing it. Thank you so much everyone for so many lovely reviews! This epilogue was written for you! ^^

So, until next time!

~Seichou Maki~