Sigh...another long chapter. I guess I'm bad with at keeping my word?
Anyway, thanks for the reviews/comments, and I apologize for the belated update. I can't promise that this trend won't continue, but I'll do my best to keep updating. I haven't felt like working on it much, mostly because I've sort of started a new project (not a fanfic) and I also started and finished '9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors' recently. Amazing game, but wow...it completely fried my brain. I was also trying to play through FFIV to see if there was a certain scene from that I could use, but no dice.
Not much going on in this one, but I do give you guys a bit of a hint on Cid. It's not my favorite chapter, and I'm pretty sure I could have done a better job on it if I weren't trying to write it at midnight. Enough excuses, though-On with the chapter!
I don't own the Persona series nor the Final Fantasy series.
Inaba, Adachi: Palace Hangar Bay
Minato disliked airships. From the fragmented bits of memory he could recall, he was able to piece together that he had often travelled by airship in his youth as his various relatives passed him around. He couldn't remember much about them though; they just filled him with a sense of sadness and loneliness.
"Something wrong?" Souji asked. He was sitting at the helm of the Imperial airship, and the pair was getting prepared to leave for Yasogami.
"I don't care much for airships," Minato replied quietly. "Bad memories, I guess. I can only recall a few trips, but I have a feeling there were quite a few." He didn't like admitting it, but his memory was becoming increasingly worse with each passing day. Souji still kept pressing him for a contact they could use in Port Island, but try as he might Minato was completely at a loss.
"I'm sorry to hear that," the gray-haired man murmured. He sounded genuinely concerned. "I guess I should have asked if you were okay with them, but this whole trip was rather spur-of-the-moment." He offered a crooked smile by way of apology, and Minato returned it half-heartedly.
He was beginning to worry for his friend. Souji, like Minato, liked to play his cards close to his chest and enjoyed his secrets. However, the ghost felt that he was entitled to know why they were going to a foreign region to release a man that Souji claimed to be acquainted with. Souji wasn't often prone to spontaneity, though it was clear that he had some plan in mind. And apparently there was something concerning this 'Cid' that Souji had been planning for some time now.
"I hope the moogle team did a good job with this thing," Souji mumbled as he pressed a button that caused the airship to roar to life. "I'm not good enough with airships to know what goes where, so I had to trust them to do it." Minato grinned a little, sensing the disgust in Souji's voice at having to both admit a fault and to trust others to do something for him. Again, he could relate.
"I'm surprised you know how to pilot an airship," the ghost said, "I mean, I guess I shouldn't be. You and I…we have a lot in common."
"What makes you say that?" Souji asked, his eyebrow arching curiously. They had not yet left the hangar bay, despite someone contacting them numerous times on the radio to tell them they were okay to take off.
"Well…forget it." Minato didn't want to admit that he had already forgotten what he'd been thinking before saying that. He looked around suddenly, his shaggy hair falling out his his eyes for a brief instant.
"I don't care much for airships," he grumbled.
Souji laughed. "Don't worry. We'll be there before you know it."
Yasogami, Amagi: Yosuke's House
Bright sunlight filtered through poorly-shuttered windows woke Yosuke from a troubled, dreamless sleep. It took him a moment to remember where he was, since he had fully expected to find himself in a jail cell once again. He smiled at the reassuring comfort of his mattress and blanket, the events of the previous day trickling back into his mind. As quietly as he could, he snuck over to his doorway and checked the room across the hall. Naoto was sleeping fitfully on his parents' bed, and Yosuke decided to let the kid sleep a little bit longer. He crept to his dresser and took out a map of the city he had purchased many years ago.
"I know where it is," he muttered, placing his finger on a building in the northeast corner of the map, "But how do we get there without attracting too much attention?" The thief grabbed a quill and vial of ink and sat down at his desk, preparing a route through the city.
He wasn't sure how long he'd been working before he heard Naoto stirring to wakefulness. Yosuke leaned back in his chair and objectively surveyed his handiwork. There were a few mistakes he'd made along the way, but he was fairly satisfied with the end product.
"What time is it?" he heard Naoto call sleepily from his parents' room.
"Somewhere between dawn and dusk," Yosuke called back cheekily.
The blue-clad engineer appeared in his doorway to give Yosuke a dark glare, so the thief quickly whirled back around on his stool to focus again on the map.
"You know what I meant," Naoto growled. "What are you doing, anyway?" Curiosity apparently took priority over anger. Before Yosuke could begin to formulate a reply, the engineer was at his side, examining the map over his shoulder.
"What's that?" the younger man asked, pointing to the building Yosuke had marked on his map.
"Jeez, Naoto! Give me a chance to talk before you barge into my room." Naoto offered no apology for the intrusion, but Yosuke had to admit that he hadn't really expected one. He heaved a melodramatic sigh.
"That's where we're going today, if you're up for it."
"Oh?" It was an ambiguous response, and apparently it was all he was going to say.
"Uh, yeah. I mean, I don't know if we're, like, wanted criminals now or anything, but I figured we're better off safe than sorry."
"So why here?" Naoto tapped the map with his forefinger, casting a critical eye at Yosuke's shoddy path-making.
"It's a bar," the thief replied bluntly. "They've got a pretty shady reputation when it comes to criminals, so it'd be a good place to lie low for a while. Got any better ideas?"
Naoto shook his head with a definite air of reluctance. Yosuke felt his shoulders sag in relief; he got the feeling that Naoto enjoyed being smarter than him. He considered this a personal victory, regardless of its significance in the overall scheme of things.
"So when do we leave?" the engineer demanded. Straight to the point, as always.
"What, that's it? You don't want to know anything else?"
"Is there anything else I need to know?"
"Well," Yosuke hesitated, trying to think of anything relevant. He knew quite a bit about that particular place, but he knew that Naoto would consider most of that knowledge trivial. "It's, um, called Escapade," he muttered lamely.
"I see." Yosuke had no idea of that guy was able to pack a speech's worth of condescension into two little words. It must be a gift.
"In case we get separated or something," he explained in a rush. "You'll know if you get to the right place or not."
"…I see." The same words, but this time Yosuke could hear the grudging respect behind them. He knew it was stupid, but he felt proud that he had come up with a legitimate explanation.
"So what are we waiting for?" Naoto asked. "Let's go." He rolled up the map and stuffed it into his sleeve.
Yosuke sighed at the younger man's impatience and grabbed his knives and other thieving equipment from his nightstand. This was going to be a long, tedious trip.
Sky: Imperial Airship
Souji felt nervous apprehension grip his stomach as he piloted the airship toward the Amagian capitol. It was feeling that bordered on fear, but he forced himself to remain as calm as possible. Minato floated serenely on his right, completely oblivious to the gray-haired man's constant struggle to keep from turning the airship around and returning to Inaba. Or, at least he seemed completely oblivious.
"There's something bothering you," the ghost observed absently. "Care to talk about it?" Souji should have known that Minato would notice. He always behaved in such an absentminded manner that Souji often forgot or damn perceptive he could be.
"It's about Cid," Souji muttered through gritted teeth. "The thought of seeing him again…it almost makes me sick."
"Is that so?" The question almost sounded like polite indifference, but Souji knew better. Minato was carefully measuring his tone and response, despite appearing to be asleep.
"Yes. I know I sounded confident last night, but as the encounter approaches I can't help but feel apprehensive. I'm mostly worried about my cousin…I'd have to leave her with my parents, but that's not exactly a fate I'd wish on anyone." Minato opened his eyes a crack and watched Souji with slight interest. For good reason, too—Souji never talked about his parents, not even when pressed on the issue. The gray-haired man sighed.
"They aren't exactly stellar guardians," he explained. "They're perfectly nice people, but they travel a lot and aren't sure how to deal with children. I mostly had to raise myself when I was young."
"So why put your cousin in that situation?" Minato asked. "Do you need to kill Cid that badly?"
"You tell me," Souji replied cryptically. "Before I met you, I was willing to let him to continue to live out his lie." He could imagine the gears whirring rapidly as Minato processed this miniscule clue. It didn't take long for the blue-haired phantom to figure it out.
"I see," he mused solemnly. "I'm sorry for forcing you into this situation, then."
"Don't be," Souji replied, waving his hand as though to physically brush off the apology, "It would inevitably come down to this anyway. That decision was made for me eight years ago…" His voice trailed off as his mind momentarily left the present to travel down a memory he did not relish revisiting.
"At least your parents are still alive," Minato said dully, perhaps sensing a subject change was in order. "Mine are dead…I think." He scrunched his eyes in concentration and scratched his head, no doubt trying to coax more memories out of his unwilling mind.
"Anything?" Souji asked. He wasn't expecting much, and he was certainly surprised when Minato's visible eye shot open and he stood up straight out of shock and revelation.
"Aigis," he announced suddenly. "You can talk to Aigis." The ghost blinked a few times rapidly, then settled back into his usual slouch.
"Who the hell is Aigis?" Souji demanded. Minato gave him a look that was blank with a capital 'B'.
"I couldn't tell you," he replied, "Why do you ask?"
You can't be serious, Souji thought irritably. Just when he finally thought there was a breakthrough on the memory front…Minato had to go and disappoint him.
Yasogami, Amagi: City Streets
Yosuke led Naoto through the winding streets of the capital, taking care to go take every backstreet and alleyway he knew. He didn't once need to consult the map, to his pride, and if the engineer was impressed by the thief's knowledge of the sprawling city, he kept it to himself. Not that Yosuke had expected any different.
They didn't pass any 'Wanted' posters with their names or faces, which was a good sign. Furthermore, they managed to avoid detection, though both would accredit it to different reasons. Yosuke claimed it was because of his instinct and skill, and Naoto pointed out that there was a low chance that there was much of a fuss about them yet, since they had only escaped the day before.
"Whatever," Yosuke scoffed, "All the soldiers know who I am. You just don't want to admit that you needed my help."
"This is the place?" Naoto asked, ignoring Yosuke's comment. They had indeed arrived at Escapade.
"Uh, yeah." Yosuke was relieved that he didn't have to think of another retort, but it was short-lived as he remembered why this was. Chie never let him get the last word in an argument; despite their frequent disagreements, Yosuke realized he would rather be here with his aggressive friend than with the uncommunicative Naoto.
"Is there a problem?" the other man asked, pulling Yosuke out of his reminiscing.
"Sorry," Yosuke said with a wry grin, "Let's go inside."
Yasogami, Amagi: Escapade
Escapade was hardly how Naoto had imagined it would be. Yosuke had mentioned that it had a questionable reputation, so she had assumed that it would be some sort of shady place full of battle-scarred sky pirates and murderers. To her surprise (which she hid well) it was a respectable-looking establishment. The floors were clean, the patrons were all chatting amicably, and none of them looked like a criminal.
"Are you certain this is the right place?" she asked Yosuke quietly. He seemed amused by her question.
"Yep," he answered cheerfully, "We're going up top, though."
Up top? Naoto followed Yosuke's gaze and saw a staircase that led up to a loft. It was a small area, and it looked fairly empty from her angle. One person up there grabbed her immediate attention, however: there was a vaguely familiar, large blond man sitting near the wall who was keenly staring at the pair. He looked away quickly when he met Naoto's eyes, and she got the feeling he'd been watching them since they'd walked in. He didn't glance their way again, but Naoto had the feeling it was a struggle for him not to do so.
Yosuke exchanged greetings with various people as they threaded their way through the crowded bar oblivious to their observer, but Naoto ignored them and kept her eyes trained on the loft and tried to ignore the fact that they were being carefully watched. She could deal with that issue after they climbed the stairs.
What would their next move be? The longer they stayed in the kingdom, the greater danger they would be in. Yet, she had to get back to Cid to make sure everything was all right, and that meant going back into the castle. Kinshiro probably had men out looking for them already; or, he had them out looking for her, at least. Yosuke probably got imprisoned and escaped all the time.
"Well, Yosuke, what's our next move?" she finally decided to broach the subject, but the thief didn't reply, to Naoto's irritation. He had apparently at last noticed the blond man in the loft.
"I… think I've seen that guy," Yosuke murmured, more to himself than to Naoto, "But why?"
"I recognize him as well," Naoto replied quietly. Yosuke shot her a curious glance.
"Really? That's weird." Naoto had to agree, it was indeed that they would both recognize someone.
"I somehow get the feeling that it's not natural to see him alone," Yosuke continued, lost in thought. His comment triggered some switch in Naoto's brain, and she knew immediately why she recognized him.
"It's Kanji," she said as softly as she could. "But Rise isn't here." Kanji the 'Treasure Hunter'…how had she not realized it at once? There were 'Wanted' posters of both him and his female accomplice hanging all over the city, for various misdeeds and illegal activities. The fact that he had been watching them with unwavering attention was certainly cause for alarm, and Naoto had no doubt that even alone Kanji was more than a match for the two of them.
Yosuke, guided by some imperceptible, incredible force, walked right up to the man and started talking to him.
"You're Kanji, right?" he asked, "The famous sky pirate?" Naoto winced at the mistake. It was an understandable error, but those who knew the difference would not take such confusion well. Kanji stared back at Yosuke for a full minute before replying in a voice that was barely distinguishable from the snarl of a monster.
"Excuse me?" he snarled, "I'm a treasure hunter. Don't confuse me for assholes like that." He jerked his thumb at a group of sky pirates at the next table. One shot him a nasty look, which Kanji returned with gusto. Confrontation was avoided.
"Oh yeah," Yosuke said, "I've heard of you. You have a partner, right?" He was a little bit slower on the uptake than Naoto had been, and it sounded he was trying to keep the eagerness out of his voice but was doing a poor job. Yosuke looked around the loft, perhaps under the impression that he had overlooked Kanji's well-known partner, but she wasn't there. Naoto didn't know much about Rise; she was said to be less violent, though Naoto thought that she could hardly imagine someone more violent than the man sitting there. Though he hadn't done more than scare a sky pirate with a single look, he had a menacing presence.
"…Tha's right," the treasure hunter muttered, looking back at the table. He seemed to be waiting for the next inevitable question, so Naoto took it upon herself to ask.
"Where is she?" The rumors circulating around the pair were many and often ridiculous, but the one rumor that was taken to be fact was that the pair was inseparable.
Kanji squirmed a bit, clearly uncomfortable with the way the conversation was going.
"She ain't here," he said at last. Naoto tried to share an exasperated look with Yosuke, but the thief was off in his own world again. What is with him? she thought darkly. It looked like she would have to take control over this conversation. That would give her a chance to ask why he'd been watching them, since it seemed that Yosuke had completely forgotten about that.
"According to rumor, it's unusual to see one of you without the other. Is she nearby?"
Kanji shook his head miserably. His colossal hands alternated between squeezing and releasing his mug, his muscles bulging formidably each time. She wasn't sure how to proceed, but fortunately Kanji was willing to continue.
"I gotta go help her," he said, voice so low that she had to strain to hear him properly, "But I don't know how." Naoto supposed she could consider that admirable, though she had yet to hear the circumstances surrounding Kanji's predicament.
"Did you guys fight or something?" Yosuke piped up. Naoto would have kicked him for his lack of tact had there been a subtle way to do so.
"Naw, 's nothin' like that," the other man replied. "We, erm, got captured. Rise helped me escape, and I ended up here." He looked away sheepishly, as though he knew that it sounded pathetic.
Kanji's character fell considerably in Naoto's eyes with that statement. As far as she was concerned, he seemed to be a criminal who was solely concerned with saving his own neck. She prepared to tell Yosuke that she believed they should go elsewhere, but the thief was not yet done with Kanji. He seemed to see the treasure hunter's story in a different light.
"So you wanna rescue her now, right?" he guessed, his eyes narrowed.
"Course I do." Kanji looked up at Yosuke, no doubt sensing a challenge.
"What are you waiting for? Only a coward would wait this long before-"
"Who the hell are you callin' a coward? I will beat the shit outta you right now if you wanna see which one o' us is the coward!" Kanji rose to his feet, though he was a bit unsteady due to the affects of whatever alcoholic beverage he had been drinking beforehand.
Before Naoto could point out that violence would prove absolutely nothing, Yosuke resumed his taunting, undaunted by the threat.
"Beat the shit out of me?" he asked lightly. "You couldn't even beat the shit out of whoever captured you. You know, I'd heard that you were one of the strongest sky pirates in the world, but it seems like that was just a rumor." He sighed sadly and shook his head. Naoto thought she could begin to see where he was going, and she was ashamed that he would stoop to such tactics. Not to mention that he was on unbelievably thin ice, taunting a man like that. Her fears were not unfounded.
Kanji had leapt out his chair so quickly that neither Naoto nor Yosuke had any time to react before Yosuke found himself slammed up against the wall. The large man had one hand clenched around the thief's neck, and Yosuke's desperate attempts to remove it were unsuccessful.
"You don't know what I've been through," Kanji growled. He leaned in until his nose was mere centimeters away from Yosuke's, and it was possibly a miracle that the thief didn't break down and cry out of fear. It certainly looked like he wanted to. "You think I'm still here 'cause I'm scared? I would get her right now if I only had a damn airship!"
Yosuke caught Naoto's eye, much to her dismay. His thought process was clear enough: he had helped her escape from prison, so she owed him a debt of gratitude.
"I could assist you in that regard," she declared. Naoto sincerely hoped that she wasn't making a gargantuan mistake. Kanji dropped the thief, leaving him gasping on the ground, and whirled to face her.
"Ya could?" he asked incredulously, "How?"
"He's an engineer," Yosuke rasped, "Works in the castle."
"However, there are multiple implications," Naoto began quickly before Kanji could get his hopes up. "I would need to get permission from the man I work for, which would mean I would have to return to the castle…" Naoto's voice faded as she realized the danger she would have to face for a complete stranger.
"And that's where I come in," the thief announced. "As you've no doubt noticed, I know every back street and shortcut in the city." The engineer resisted the urge to groan— she'd had enough of Yosuke's shortcuts.
"Relax!" he assured her quickly, "You won't have to walk around town! There's a sewer passageway that'll take you straight to the hangar bay! Besides," Yosuke added before Naoto could interject, "You owe me." Naoto's nails dug into her palms as she clenched her fists, wishing dearly that she could be back in that jail cell. Anywhere, under any circumstances, would be better than this.
"Could I speak to you for a moment?" she hissed. Yosuke shrugged and followed her back down to the main level.
"What exactly are you planning?" Naoto demanded when she believed they were safely out of Kanji's hearing, "What interest do you have in this venture?"
"Naoto, he's a treasure hunter." Yosuke was using an infuriatingly patronizing tone, as though trying to explain a simple concept to a child. "You know what the reward for helping a treasure hunter is? I'll give you a hint: it starts with 'tr' and rhymes with-"
"You're just doing this for your own gain." Why had she expected any different?
"Of course I am! No self-respecting thief would do anything else." Yosuke crossed his arms defensively and raised his eyebrows incredulously.
Naoto could not think of any response to that that wouldn't reveal her naiveté. Yosuke could apparently see nothing wrong with his plan, and took the engineer's shocked silence for disgruntled acceptance.
"Here, I'll draw you a map of the sewer," he said, grabbing a napkin from a nearby table.
"Wait a moment," she said, interrupting his sketching. A thought had just occurred to her. "When you helped me get out of prison, how much of that decision was based on knowing I would repay you?"
"All of it." No hesitation whatsoever.
Naoto wasn't sure how that made her feel. Angry? No, she wasn't angry; she could never remember being truly angry with someone. In this case, she was just disappointed.
"Here you are," the thief proclaimed, handing her his rough drawing of the city's underground. He had labeled the nearest entrance to Escapade and had drawn a clear route to the castle's hangar bay.
"You are too kind," Naoto remarked drily, stowing the paper away in her pocket. "What do you intend to do in the meantime?"
Yasogami, Amagi: Escapade
Yosuke hadn't been expecting that question. He was content to plan ahead when it came to things like treasure, but he had no immediate plan for the future now that he had figured out how to procure the airship.
"Uh," he began, trying desperately to think of something to do, "I guess I hadn't really considered that." He twisted the silver ring unconsciously, dying to try it out again in a more open environment.
"I have a proposal," Naoto said. "Why don't you and Kanji practice fighting together? I'm sure his style is different from Chie's, and I don't doubt that you could use the practice." Yosuke winced, knowing that the engineer was referring to the fight against the Tyrannosaurus Rex.
"Yeah, I'll think about it," he replied. He had no intention of doing so, and Naoto probably knew that.
"I'm glad to hear it," the engineer said. "You know," he added as an afterthought, "Cid might not even let me borrow one of the airships. What then?"
"Then I'll think of something else." That was clear enough to Yosuke. He never bothered with backup plans—he was more of an on-the-spot thinker. Naoto shrugged, most likely in disgust, at his simplicity and went on his way to the sewers. As soon as the engineer was out the door, Yosuke heaved a sigh of relief. Hanging around Naoto was more stressful than it was worth.
Yasogami, Amagi: Escapade
"Your friends left."
Kanji frowned. He didn't recognize the voice, but he was sure it couldn't be addressing him. He turned around and found that he was face-to-face with the gang of sky pirates he had insulted earlier.
"Were you talkin' to me?" he asked, honestly confused.
"Do you see anyone else up here, treasure hunter?" It was true—there was no one else up in the loft.
"You've gotta be kiddin' me," he muttered. "Uh, listen. Those guys weren't my friends. Hell, I hadn't even met them before they came in and started talkin' to me." When he said it like that, Kanji realized that that sounded like a very weak explanation.
"You think you can take us all on at once?" one of the pirates sneered, ignoring what Kanji had said. Somewhere along the way the decision to fight had been made for him. Not that he minded.
The blond man scoffed. "I can take on a hundred o' you guys before breakfast. Try me." His well-trained mind had already run through a number of fighting scenarios on this loft, just in case there was an altercation with another criminal. This would be a cakewalk.
They hesitated a bit after seeing the confidence in his eyes, but they reassured themselves after remembering that they had strength in numbers.
The fight was over in a matter of seconds, and only a handful of the bar's patrons glanced up to see what the disturbance was. Kanji glared down rather proudly at his handiwork: a pile of unconscious sky pirates who would forever think twice before fighting a treasure hunter.
"Nothin' to it," he declared with a grin. A sharp whistle startled him, and Kanji raised his fists expectantly.
"I'm not gonna fight you," the man with spiky brown hair exclaimed, holding up his hands in a gesture of surrender. It was the man from before. "That was impressive, though. Where'd you learn to fight like that?"
"Just picked it up, tha's all," the treasure hunter mumbled. He was highly embarrassed that somebody other than Rise was praising his fighting skill.
"You remind me of a friend of mine," the young man said kindly. "You should meet her sometime. I'm sure you'd have a lot to talk about."
"Why'd ya come back?" Kanji asked bluntly. He had assumed that the brown-haired man's role in the transaction was over. Once that blue-haired guy was back, Kanji would be good to go.
"I was thinking," he began uneasily, "I mean, you might need help when you go back to rescue your friend. So, how about it?"
"How about what?"
"I'll help you out, if you want. I'm not half-bad in a fight."
Kanji looked at him. The young man had a pair of knives secured loosely in his belt, and his armor was negligible. The treasure hunter knew that he'd have to work hard to protect both of them, which would be twice as difficult without Rise's support. Still, it wouldn't hurt to see the other man's potential.
"I'm Yosuke, by the way," the brown-haired man said awkwardly. "I'm a thief."
"Kanji. Treasure hunter." He knew that his introduction had already been made for him, but he still liked the sound of his name and profession. Kanji, treasure hunter.
"So I've heard," Yosuke remarked with a half-smile. "So, are you in?"
"Just one thing," Kanji said. "I wanna make sure you'd be good enough to stand on yer own."
The thief's eyes widened a great deal as he considered what those words could mean. He swallowed nervously and cautiously asked, "What exactly do you mean?"
"Jes' follow me," Kanji replied with a telltale cracking of his knuckles. He hadn't had a decent fight in a while, and he was itching to see if this Yosuke guy was any good.
Yasogami, Amagi: Hangar Bay
Souji emerged from the airship, feeling only a little bit better than before. A handful of guards greeted him in the hangar bay, and it was clear that they didn't know why he was there.
"I've come to speak with Kinshiro," he announced dramatically. "He has committed a great many wrongs and such transgressions will not go unpunished. I bring a letter from your princess," he added menacingly. The guards regarded him with suspicion, but at long last one of them left to go tell Kinshiro of his arrival. Souji ignored their stares and removed Masamune from its sheath, gazing at the blade almost reverently in the dim lighting.
"I wish it didn't have to come to this," he whispered. "But it's better now than never, isn't it?"