AN: And here we are folks, the final chapter of Awakening! I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I've loved writing it. A big thanks to the following people for their favourites and reviews, its been a pleasure hearing from you =)
So please enjoy this final chapter and continue to R&R politely please, thanks so much =D
Awakening: Part 8 – Resolution (Final)
The skies had grown dark, clouds gathering into billowing plumes along the shadowy horizon. A cool breeze picked up, biting through clothing and feasting on chilled flesh. There was a heavy suspense hanging in the air, like dense smoke it lingered and preyed upon the minds of those still awake. Towering above the rest of the city was the clock tower, its ageless black hands steadily counting down the seconds. Tick, tick, tick, tick….
She gripped the fabric of her hoody as she watched the heavens change. Those clouds seemed to swell, their once black blue outlines morphing into an uncanny green glow. As the moon slowly clawed its way out of its shadowy nest it illuminated them with an unusually intense light. It was half way through its cycle, winking at them with unspoken intent. Tomoko felt her body shudder at the similarities between it and her Persona…her Persona….
Fingers coiled round the hilt of her new evoker, strapped firmly to her hip within a holster. Its cool surface sent a shudder down her spine. What had she agreed to? Pointing a seemingly deadly weapon to her head and blasting her brains out for a living? If it weren't for the mad sniggering echoing from the back of her head she might have believe she was in some twisted nightmare.
But as Akihiko and Mitsuru fell in step with her, the former giving her a semi reassuring smile, she felt the chill of reality. This was no joke.
The Chairman, or Ikutsuki-san as he insisted, had remained at the dorm to supervise from there. Tomoko had learned he had no Persona summoning ability, and had frowned utterly confused when his voice sounded through Mitsuru's phone.
For starters, how was that thing working during the Dark Hour? And why hadn't Ikutsuki-san transmogrified? If he had no potential then how-?
"Yes, we will be avoiding Tartarus. I know an area close by that we can test Hakashi-san and Arrius's abilities" the brunette could feel Mitsuru's gaze, but was too bewildered to meet it with her own, "There are lesser shadows around there usually, and is perfect for training"
"Alright, I will monitor from the command room. Be on your guard and fight hard" Kirijo-san's phone closed with a snap as she ended the call. Slipping it back into her skirt pocket, she proceeded to answer one of the questions hanging over Tomoko's head.
"My phone was built in the Kirijo laboratories. They studied the Dark Hour and Shadow behaviour there" the street was deathly silent, an empty juice can rolling along the pavement sounding unnaturally loud, "It's powered purely by the energy with the Dark Hour, and will not work otherwise. An emergency line, if you will"
A shaky breath rattled through Tomoko's nose as she sidestepped another puddle of blood, "H-Heh, nice to know s-someone's watching o-our backs"
A large hand patted her on the shoulder, earning a strangled squeak of surprise in response. Akihiko chuckled quietly to himself before speaking, "You've nothing to worry about if you're sensible and stick close to us, Hakashi-san. Hey, you might even come to enjoy the Dark Hour raids. Think of it as a chance to improve yourself, hone your abilities! You're into kendo right?"
Hesitating for a moment, the brunette swallowed the nervous lump in her throat, "Y-Yeah, onii-chan got me an interview with Mamoru-sens- uhh, at the Takizawa dojo"
"Then you'll have training regimes and goals to reach?" the brunette slowly began to inch away from the anxiety brewing in her stomach. She grinned slightly when she answered, Mitsuru watching the pair talk animatedly about their dedicated sports with a shake of her head and a smile.
Hakashi was already on route to settling in.
Blood splattered across the paved streets, the eerie green hue of Dark Hour causing it to gleam. A breathy gasp sounded as the red head fell to her knees, ruby eyes wide with pain. Slender fingers held her side, her once crisp white shirt quickly turning red. It tricked through her clenched hand, oozing down her skin.
"Ahh…" the roar of the oncoming Shadow drowned out her pained wheeze, the colossal beetle tossing its head to one side in triumph. They were shouting out to her. Akihiko's anxious face appeared in her vision, deftly catching her by the shoulders before she could collapse.
"Mitsuru….please, hold on" she coughed violently, tasting the bitter copper on her tongue as she relented to leaning on him. The ground shook violently; both heads jerking up as a string of terrified profanities were yelled to the rampaging Shadow.
"I take it that you're not going easy on me 'cause I'm the newbie?" green eyes widened as the beast rammed its armoured head downward in a deadly strike. With an undignified squawk, Tomoko threw herself out of its onslaught. She tumbled hard, the wind being knocked from her lungs as she rolled. Both seniors flinched as the Shadow rammed into the opposite wall, the entire building quivering.
"Oh….oh my head" she cooed in a daze, all arms and legs as Akihiko dragged Mitsuru down beside the brunette. His evoker was quickly drawn; the shattering of glass had the Shadow howling its hatred to the bloated, crescent moon.
Behind the boxer rose a strange, armoured creature with soft trailing hair. It whirled up into the air, its drill arm thrust toward the red head. It glowed with a soft white light, and Mitsuru swore she saw a gentle, reassuring look within the Persona's beady eyes.
The Kirijo heiress sighed with relief as a warm, tingling sensation grew in her wound. She carefully lifted her hand away and watched as flesh knitted itself back together. The pain began to die away, lingering only as a mildly uncomfortable ache.
The star Persona faded from view, leaving Tomoko in dazed amazement as the boxer helped Mitsuru to her feet, "T-That was your….P-Persona?"
Akihiko glanced her way and smiled proudly, "Yes, his name is Polydeuces"
The girl took a few moments to gather her bearings, steadily getting to her feet with a low whistle, "Well, he looks formidable enough…wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of him in a boxing ring"
Akihiko smirked and was about to reply when the Grave Beetle decided it wanted the lime light again. With a furious roar it lumbered forward, swinging its massive gait from side to side. They had to leap out of its path, Mitsuru gasping with pain as she knocked her tender side.
Tomoko growled with frustration, eying the creature with a venomous glare, "H-How the hell do we stop this thing?"
The red head looked pointedly at her, a manicured hand shooting out to stop Akihiko from summoning Polydeuces again. Tomoko blanched, suddenly very pale, "M….M-Me?"
"Now seems appropriate, and we are here if things get too dangerous" the Shadow's intimidating bulk was fast approaching, and the teen scrambled with a distress squeak to get out of its way. The gun she'd received dug almost demandingly into her hip, its silvery surface catching her out the corner of the vision, "Now Hakashi! You must trust us"
A strangled cry escaped her as a massive leg whacked into the pavement by her head. Rolling out from underneath the stinking mass she sent the seniors a wide-eyed look, "So just….point and…shoot?"
Akihiko was obviously at the brink of finishing the Shadow off himself. But patient as always, Mitsuru shook her head at him and stared down the dithering teen, "Yes…think about your Persona! Think about what you want him to do! Think and he'll do it!"
Tomoko swallowed nervously, her hand hovering over the holstered gun. Her fingers trembled dreadfully, her body no better. Arrius was chomping at the bit to get out, desperate to toy with the Shadow. The Grave Beetle must have sensed the build-up, because it was now circling her slowly as if seeing her in a whole different light. She was no longer the prey, but an armed enemy.
"Time's up kid, gotta let me out" his voice had a bizarrely calming effect on her shaking, her green eyes narrowing.
Antenna twitched in recognition, the Shadow began to charge up for its next attack. Its grey body glowed with a sinister golden light as if buffed its defences. Both seniors stilled as they watched the fight before them suddenly get more serious, "Are you sure we should-?"
Ruby eyes hardened and stared unblinking at the brunette, almost willing her into action, "Positive"
A flare of pain grasped Tomoko's mind, and she winced. Her hand flexed groping blindly for the reassuring purchase of her hip. Instead, it gripped the hilt of her evoker. Upon contact her body let out a spasm as if electrocuted. Her arm jerked, dragging the gun out. It glinted against the moonlight, defiant.
"Together incredible, inseparable…insufferable…" a swirl of yellow crept into her eyes. The cool barrel of the evoker pressed snuggly against the underside of her chin, the vulnerable flesh exposed. She glared up at the circling Shadow, her lips twitching at the corners as a foreign sense of disembodiment descended upon her. Lips parted in a widening smirk…
Tomoko felt the chill up her spine as Arrius pulled himself from her skull, a fountain of liquid shadow. He revolved in the air, billowing up into a cloud, slits blinking open as his grin cracked wide. Both seniors backed up further into the wall at the Persona's reappearance. The very air around them had rapidly frozen and grown heavy, making it difficult to breathe.
The Shadow took little time to marvel however, thundering forwards at startling speed. Beneath its thick black legs the ground shook. A cackling laughter erupted from the hovering Persona, Tomoko slowly falling onto her knees.
Akihiko's eyes widened and he instinctively took a step forward, the girl's evoker having clattered to the pavement. But again, Mitsuru stopped him.
"Hey! We can't just-!" he was growing irritated, hating standing around doing nothing. But Mitsuru's expression was no longer just intrigue, but critically scrutinizing as well.
"Let us watch, and see what they can do"
Arrius stilled for a moment, his whole form seeming to vibrate before surging inward. He glowed as brightly as the green sky, and exploded with a bloodcurdling scream. Both seniors clutched at their ears, watching though squinting eyes as the beetle screeched. Its head jerked violently, almost against its will.
Another ground trembling moment passed as the Grave Beetle skidded to a stop, its shell quaking…seemingly with absolute terror. Arrius re-emerged, hovering behind the beast this time. He drifted from side to side, zigzagging as he seemed to evaluate the Shadow, "Tomoko, dear, if you would be so kind"
Her hand scooped up the abandoned evoker, shakily getting to her feet. The teen staggered a little, shaking her head to clear her thoughts, "B-Bloody hell! Easy on m-my brain next time!"
The pair seemed to converse silently for a moment, the Persona coming to rest above her almost dominantly. Tomoko scowled but conceded, squaring her jaw. She exhaled sharply, joltingly bringing the evoker to her temple, "M-Mudo!"
Smirking, Arrius surges upward again. He rolled over, face upside down as a shadowy paw emerged from the cloud. With a flick of sharp claws, a purple circle shimmered before the Shadow, pulsating for a moment before exploding in a shower of darkness. It snaked up the beast's legs, creeping into the gaps between its body and shell, bone creaking under the stress.
A shrill shriek of pain erupted from the convulsing Shadow before it burst into dark ashes, covering the group in the foul smelling substance.
Tomoko let out a nervous breath, her heart shuddering within her chest. Arrius caught her attention, smiling at her a final time, before vanishing with a wink. Her head pulsed before the creature settled down, and for the first time in days she felt strangely satisfied.
"Well…shit!" she grinned wearily at the seniors, watching as both wiped the ashy remains of the Shadow from their clothes, "Talk about intense! T-That was…was…"
"Brilliant" the boxer grinned at her impressed, leaning down and scuffing up her hair, "For your first time you sure gave it a beating. I think "grinding it into dust" actually has meaning"
"Indeed, once you relaxed you showed remarkable progress…and your Persona is…something else" Mitsuru gestured for them to follow, the skies slowly turning bluish black, marking the end of Dark Hour. Tomoko playfully scowled at Akihiko, pawing her messy fringe indignantly.
"You can say that again…smells awful too" again, that scowl was turned his way, "Just stating a fact"
"He just kicked some serious beetle ass back there!" the teen flapped her arms frustrated, though her slowly growing grin undermined her supposed tantrum. The redhead smiled with a chuckle.
"Both of you did well. And with some training you could definitely improve. I wish to see more of this at some point…" her lips quirked ever so slightly as she continued "…maybe even…have you joining us at the dorm"
Tomoko faltered misstep, her hand inches from picking up her equipment bag. Mitsuru was met by wide startled eyes as the teen gaped at her.
"Y-You're serious?" the seniors paused, watching her with mild amusement. The teen's brain could be seen working double-time through the comical expression she wore, stuttering over Mitsuru's words, "As in actually staying with you both?"
"Unless there is a problem with that?" her voice was rigidly professional, but even the redhead couldn't hide the triumph from her tone. They had another member, "We are all Persona users, and it makes sense to stay together. That and we will be attending the same school"
Tomoko pursed her lips as she scooped her bag and trotted up to them, "There is something"
Akihiko looked down at her with an eyebrow raised, slightly surprised until Tomoko answered the unspoken question, "Kazou-oniichan"
At this neither senior spoke. Mitsuru frowned as they began to walk further into town, the moon beaming brightly overhead. She'd forgotten about the eldest Okida sibling. He would fight them tooth and nail to keep hold of his sister. And she knew he would likely to turn to violence again if necessary.
A few minutes passed with the three of them absolutely silent. It was as if the others were deliberately giving her time to think. And think she did, eyes slowly brightening as a thought occurred to her. It would require a bit of manipulation of their newest recruit but – Mitsuru glanced at her with a touch of determination and possessiveness – the Kirijo heiress wasn't prepared to lose her that quickly.
"Do you want to stay with us Hakashi-san?" Tomoko glanced up at her, sliding her glass back up her nose with a finger, "You can't be forced, and ultimately it is your decision. We desperately need help, but it is up to you"
Neither saw the deadpanned expression Akihiko wore beside them.
The brunette squirmed slightly under that intense gaze, and when Arrius began niggling at her to agree she knew were this was leading. Urck! She hated having to fight with her brother, but she couldn't deny the excitement of learning more about Arrius…and the opportunity to help her new senpai.
It was growing too crowded at the flat; her paranoia of playing burden had grown since she'd moved in. Add the fact that she had no job nor was enrolled at any school meant that she was practically leaching off Kazou for food and shelter. She shuddered at the thought, disgusted momentarily, she'd never wanted that!
But the fear of this unknown; this secret, dangerous world of the Dark Hour and its Shadows was as terrifying as it was alluring. It was another chance for her to throw herself into mindless battle, to focus on other things than her fractured family and her mental health. It would mean living with people she'd known less than a fortnight, and studying at a highly prestigious school.
Was she truly ready for this? Could this be her chance to prove to her mum that she'd managed to move on? To tell Kazou that she could really manage on her own? To show her dad that she still wanted to make him proud?
And most of all, to prove to herself that she could do all this?
"Yes" she muttered at last, answering her thoughts aloud. Green eyes hardened, reflecting the determination in Mitsuru's eyes, and a genuine grin formed.