Chapter 18: Friendships and Truths

A/N: Here we go! Elizabeth, Yukari and Mitsuru, it's your times to shine! Also, as a side note, I'll be putting up the lyrics in English for the song that appears in this chapter rather than the Japanese. Yes, there is a song.

...Spoilers?

Nah.

Also, my beta didn't respond to my PM about beta'ing the chapter within 24 hours, so, since I'm impatient, here you go Beta'd by me. I tried this time.

EDIT: Hey, guys. Future Zero here. So, I wanted to thank/apologize to C.O.Y.L. He came up with the name "Ciphers" for Minato's Group Name, but I completely forgot to credit him. I mean, when I first wrote the name in chapter 16, I thought he sent in the idea via PM, but I couldn't find it anywhere in my PMs and didn't remember who sent it. Then I found it in my reviews and I'm just... very embarrassed. So, sorry C.O.Y.L. I don't know if you decided to drop this fic or where you are, but I'm sorry. I need to keep better track of these things.

I'm sorry to all of you. I'll try to keep better track of who submits which ideas in the Questions that I do every chapter.

ONTO THE STORY!


SWS: Elizabeth: Of Dreams and Bonds


Truly, I could not comprehend the bond between myself and Minato.

Perhaps I had been entranced by the freedom he had possessed. As a Denizen of the Velvet Room, my fate was sealed. There was no escape, no other options but to follow the course of action given to me. I was the attendant, and would remain so until I moved on to the next stage of my fate. The fate of a Denizen was something that bound the individual in its various rules and traps, and I, as just a relatively young attendant, would not dare break free.

I began to look at myself and realize that, compared to him, I was a prisoner. My bonds weren't defined by manacles and they weren't defined by chains. For the majority of my existence, I had been a prisoner and I had not even noticed. Without a Wild Card, without a guest for the Velvet Room, I could not leave it to see the human world. I never knew how much I couldn't have or see. Once, I was happy with the conditions set upon my life.

Minato, on the other hand, was free of his fate. He was a man with the whole world open to him, boundless opportunities were there for him to discover. I believe that once I discovered this, I began to admire him. Perhaps this was when the bond formed between us. The one who had no fate formed a bond with the prisoner of her fate. Normally, forming a bond with a Denizen was thought to be impossible.

The fact that he had managed to do so proved his ability to deny the paths that bound us all. My admiration for him grew larger and larger still as I watched him become a man who would devote himself for others. He would use his gift for the sake of changing the paths of others instead of merely taking the easy path for himself.

In truth, and this is quite embarrassing to admit, I had been watching his dreams since the bond formed between us. It may have been a simple "perk" (or was it "park"? "Pick"? "Peck"?) of the Social Link between us. Thus, in the ten years when we had not seen each other, I had watched him. I had no other duties to attend to, so, for the sake of resolving my unending boredom and insatiable need to be entertained, I watched every night. Sometimes, he dreamt of nothing. Other times, they were nightmares of the events that had changed him. I felt his sadness and his longing. His melancholy became mine. I stayed with him in his nightmares, making sure he did not remember as much of them as possible. Other times I saved him from them and fought the demons that plagued his mind.

But, as years passed, he began to dream of being a hero, of saving his few friends he had from the darkness that tortured them all. He dreamt of playing with them free of burdens and of being reunited with his parents. And they were proud of him. The nightmares still came, but this happiness he had was nothing else but a blessing. However, for me, it caused pain. I was ecstatic that he had finally begun to find happiness, but I was not the cause of it. I was not there to bask in the glow of his joy. His dreams had no more room for me. I was simply the "attendant" who assisted him with a few Velvet Room duties. Our bond, in its weak state, was not enough for him to think of me as often as I had hoped. For a long time, I believed he had forgotten me.

It was odd how enamored I had become with him. At the time, I could not comprehend the mysteries of my own heart. When he saw me once more years later, I was truly joyful. To be able to walk beside him in his own world, to be able to go to class with him, to be able to merely speak with him...

Words cannot express my gratitude, Master Philemon.

You had noticed the chains of fate that bound me were being loosened by Minato. Like so many others, he had also changed me. So, like a newborn bird, you pushed me out of the nest and hoped that I would fly. And I would have to fight against gravity, struggle before I hit the ground and never flew again. I would have to fight in order to fly.

Maybe I shall never escape my fate. Yet, even if I can never escape it, at the very least I have been able to spend time with him. I'll have that time as I fall, free of the ground.

You might find it funny, but I had once written out the entire Request list to only be escort requests. If you had not freed me from my duties, Master Philemon, then I would have already been leaving every day.

So, in the jovial words of a kind gentleman that I once passed in the hall of the school, "suck on that".


May 14, 2009


Thursday had come for Elizabeth, though she much rather preferred to call it "Thor's Day" after its namesake. Never mind the fact that Freya's Day, or Friday as the called it, had also received the same treatment.

Elizabeth sighed as she dropped her head into one hand. School, she noted, was perhaps the single dullest thing Elizabeth had ever experienced. The first day of it had certainly been one of excitement and intrigue, but it quickly died away as Elizabeth realized that she knew all the knowledge the teachers were trying to share. Especially when it came to the knowledge of the teacher known as Edogawa. As interesting as he was, he did not present knowledge she did not already know.

As she sighed, Elizabeth thought of the conversation she had shared with Minato in the late hours of the previous night. Certainly, Minato had the beginnings of a very odd, yet dangerous plan. However, there was a great measure of uncertainty. Elizabeth and Minato had both acknowledged that Minato's current plan could perhaps save humanity, but they also agreed that it would in the end only be a temporary solution that carried with it much risk. Minato could only buy time until he uncovered a more efficient method.

'There are much more foolish plans, to be sure,' Elizabeth thought to herself in an attempt to reassure herself.

And, in but an instant, the bell rang. Class had ended for the day. After quickly saying something to Chidori, Minato turned around in his seat to look at her with a kind smile on his face.

"I'm glad that's over. I'll meet up with you back at the Club. I think I might need to finally go to one of the meetings for the kendo club. I've been a bit of a ghost member for too long... Especially considering they voted me to be the captain," Minato said with a chuckle. Elizabeth nodded.

"I hope that you have a most wondrous time with your sword-wielding comrades. I suppose I shall simply go home. I've not much to do today," she replied with a bright smile. With a promise of "see you later", Minato left. Elizabeth gathered her belongings, stood, and walked over to Chidori.

"Ah, Yoshino-san! Might you be going straight home as well? I would love company for the walk back," Elizabeth asked politely. Chidori looked at her icily.

"Unlike you, I joined a club (although against my well). I need to go to the Art Club. Why don't you go play with a blender or something?" And with those cold words, Chidori left. Elizabeth almost called out that she had learned blenders were for the mixing of food and not hands, but Chidori left too quickly. However, what Chidori said sparked something in Elizabeth.

She could join a club.

...But which one?

'I must discover all the types of clubs! Perhaps Aragaki-san might be willing to impart some knowledge?" Elizabeth turned to try to find Shinjiro, but Akihiko and he had already left with neither of them looking happy.

"Oh my," Elizabeth said under her breath as she moved to leave. Perhaps she wouldn't be discovering any clubs today.

When Elizabeth arrived at her shoe locker, she opened it to find instead of her shoes, two dead fish and a note. Confused by the transformation of her shoes into fish, she took the note and read. Scrawled in horrible handwriting were four words.

"WEAR THEM, GAIJIN FREAK!"

Elizabeth tilted her head confusedly. Gaijin meant "outsider" and freak was most usually defined as "a thing or occurrence that is markedly irregular or unusual". Did these kind people figure out that she was from an outside of unusual origin? Interesting. This must be how they welcome others to their cultures. Behind her, she heard a very soft voice address her.

"Ah, um... Your shoes should be in the trash bin right next to the lockers. They... uh... aren't very creative with how they do things," the voice said. Elizabeth turned to find a small teal-haired girl behind her. The girl had her eyes to the ground and her whole body seemed to be huddled together. It was as if she was trying to make herself as small and unnoticeable as possible. Elizabeth noticed one other thing, however. This girl had a mask that she wore that was stronger than many others. This girl had a Persona that had yet to be awakened. She would have to inform Minato.

"Aha! I noticed you! Your attempts at hiding yourself have failed! Now, as per the custom of this country, I shall take my leave with these specially crafted shoes," Elizabeth declared, a little too loudly. The departing students took an ever wider berth around the obviously insane girl. However, she did here one voice amongst the crowd exclaim, "Zat eez ze spirit, love!"

"You... you don't need to talk loud. Now people are staring at us!" The girl whispered harshly. Elizabeth shrugged.

"Is that a bad thing?"

The girl nodded so hard Elizabeth feared her head might come right off.

"Yes! You don't understand, but they picked you as a target, just like they picked me. It's not a custom or anything. They stole your shoes and you can't leave with your school shoes. They are going to keep picking on you because they find it funny. They love others' misery. The more attention you attract, the worse it will get. Trust me. You have to hope they get bored with you and move on," the girl said to Elizabeth. Elizabeth cocked an eyebrow.

"That's odd. If they love misery, then why should I give them what they want? If they can never get the misery they desire, then would they not stop trying to cause it?" Elizabeth asked confusedly.

The girl's jaw dropped.

"Well, perhaps you think the solution isn't quite so simple, but it is. What can a few miscreants possible do to me?" Elizabeth asked.

"W-who are you?" The girl asked, stunned by Elizabeth's confidence.

"Oh! I forgot to introduce myself. You may call me Elizabeth. May I have your name as well?"

"Fuuka. I'm Fuuka Yamagishi," she replied. Elizabeth suddenly clasped Fuuka's hand and shook it.

"Excellent! Then we are friends! And I believe this is how we greet each other after we state our names. Now, Fuuka-san, I have a question I would very much like answered," Elizabeth stated, now letting go of Fuuka's hand. Fuuka was completely and utterly frozen by what had just happened.

"...Friend?" She said to herself. Part of her wanted to warn Elizabeth not to get to close to her for fear of her getting bullied, but Fuuka realized that Elizabeth was already experiencing it. So, they would be sufferers-in-arms then? Maybe her friendship with Elizabeth could even help stop the bullying. Fuuka wouldn't be alone anymore. So she easily found she was able to accept the friendship, however odd the start of it was.

It was like Elizabeth was a child, automatically making them friends like that.

"Yes, quite! Back to the topic at hand, would you please tell me about all the individual clubs? I would very much like to join one," Elizabeth asked. Fuuka nodded, now free from her shock.

"I'd love to," she said with a smile. She befriended one of the transfer students (and they had suspiciously had a lot of them recently). Perhaps her life could take a change now?

From around the corner, Minato watched on. He smiled to himself.

"I was a little worried about her, but I guess she can go to a school and make friends. Right, Aigis-san?" He asked the blond girl who had also been watching. She nodded.

"I don't understand why she's here still, but... I think this might be good for her," Aigis replied.

The two of them smiled as they watched Elizabeth talk excitedly with her new friend.

She might not have been of this world, but her bright personality and confidence helped her make friends nonetheless.

For both Minato and Aigis, it was reassuring.

...

...

...

Silence passed between them for several moments before Aigis spoke up.

"So... Friday, right?" Aigis asked, trying to break the now awkward silence. Minato nodded.

"Yeah... uh... How about like we meet at Club Escapade at like nine? Never really gave a time, did I? I'll grab us a table in the back, okay?" Minato answered, completely forgetting to give her the specifics of their meeting they had set up. He was too used to animes and movies where people will simply say "Meet me on Friday at this place" and never really say anything else.


"145! 146! 147!"

"That's the spirit! Never give up! Keep swinging!"

"148! I feel the burn!"

"THE BURN IS GOOD!"

Yukari sat on the roof of the dorm, watching Junpei swing his katana over and over again. Kazushi, a member of the Kendo team, had come to help Junpei by coaching and imparting knowledge of various sword techniques he had learned. Apparently Akihiko knew Kazushi and called in a favor. However, it only took a few moments for Junpei and Kazushi to become close. Junpei was now driven by something. Instead of spending most of the time in the arcade or goofing off somewhere else, he seemed completely focused on getting stronger.

She had only seen the idiot "Stupei" who had no drive or goals in life. The idiot who always tried to hit on her and every other girl. But now, seeing him having such drive... Seeing him with such seriousness and determination...

For a moment, and only for a moment, his serious expression made her heart skip a beat.

It was then that Akihiko came through the door leading back into the dorms.

"May I sit here?" He asked Yukari. She nodded and scooted over from her spot next to the door. He took a seat next to her, keeping his eyes on Junpei.

"What's with him? I've never seen him so... driven," Yukari asked, still unable to believe that this is the same Junpei she knew.

"He hates his weakness. I think it was our failure to find Minato in time that may have sparked it to life, but that hatred has been there for a long time. Even though Minato is back at school and safe, he experienced complete failure. What if Minato's life was in danger? What if it was your life or my life in danger and he had been late? Junpei-kun doesn't want to find out. So, in his hatred, in his fear, he's decided to get stronger. It's as simple as that," Akihiko explained. Yukari chuckled dryly.

"So he really is the same old Stupei. He's forgetting that he isn't alone," Yukari said. Akihiko sighed.

"He wants to be a hero. The path of a hero is a lonely one, you know?" Akihiko replied. Yukari turned her head to look Akihiko directly in the eyes.

"Does it have to be?"

"No."

"Good," Yukari said with a smile.

Yukari rose to her feet, brushed off her clothes, and went through the door back to the inside of the dorms. She looked back once, and then closed the door behind her.

'Junpei, if you keep going at this rate, keep following this obsession, you're going to destroy yourself. You're just one person. You're a good person, the one who is supposed to be the silly goof-off who keeps moral high. You shouldn't be... like this... Trust us more, share your burden with... us…with me,' Yukari thought to herself. She couldn't tell him this. After all the teasing that has gone back and forth between them, would he even listen to her?

Yukari sighed as she leaned against the door. She missed the idiotic Junpei.

What the heck was wrong with her?


Mitsuru sat at her desk, filling out paperwork like any other day. As the actual leader of SEES, she was put in charge of filling out all the paperwork. She eyed the clock. It was past ten now. She lost track of time again... Why the heck did she have to fill out a form, in triplicate, detailing the activities of her team? Couldn't she make a phone call and just tell people what happened? And why the triplicate?! Her dad just wouldn't let her catch a break, would he?

She sighed as she stood up and stretched. She really needed to get outside more. Mitsuru went to her closet to get a set of some casual clothes out. She'd been in her uniform for far too long. She eventually found a red and black blouse and a pair of black jeans that just seemed to fit for where she had decided to go. It wasn't often that she got to wear them, so Mitsuru privately enjoyed wearing jeans. Ten minutes later, Mitsuru left her room, greeted Labrys as she headed down the stairs, across the lobby, and out the door.

Mitsuru breathed the night air in deeply as she shook her hair out. She really did need to loosen up more. Fortunately, Mitsuru knew just the place where she could relax.


Club Escapade


The bouncer let the red-haired ojou-sama in without as much as a second thought. The Kirijo Group was a major stockholder of the place (they had been so for a very long time), so they couldn't simply deny her access. Besides, she hardly looked like a child. Some shouts of protest came up from behind her due to her completely cutting the line, but what could the bouncer do?

She was Mitsuru Kirijo.

Mitsuru found a seat of in the corner of the club.

"Kirijo-sama, I see you're here again! Would you like the same as last time?" The manager said with a brilliantly fake smile as he walked over to her table. In truth, having Mitsuru Kirijo over was nerve-wracking for the man. He could practically feel her eyeing the area, judging everything they were doing wrong.

"Yes. I need nothing but a glass of water. When's the band coming on?" She asked, as she had asked for the past few days. The manager smiled as he rubbed his hands together nervously.

"Soon, very soon!" He said quickly. The manager couldn't understand why she seemed so interested in the band. He couldn't fire them because of... reasons, but he hoped he could at least stop such a terrible band from performing every night!

Mitsuru smiled as she nodded, pleased with the answer.

When she heard of the band that had started here, and she heard of the bishounen lead singer, Mitsuru had a feeling it was probably Minato. She was, as always, right. Aigis could report to her on what they do outside of the band performances. However, although she could barely talk to him ever since they kissed, being able to watch him perform and smile gave her peace. It was enough just to watch him for now. She'd wait for him to give her an answer, but she wouldn't cut him out from her life until then.

After a few minutes, the band walked out. They were met with a chorus of boos, but it didn't seem to bother them.

There was the lead singer, a man with red hair and blue eyes in a suit who looked almost exactly like Minato, the bass guitarist with blond hair and black gothic lolita clothes, the drummer who always had his eyes hidden by his beanie and barely tried to disguise himself, and the keyboard pianist, Elizabeth, who didn't even try to hide her true self.

Mitsuru knew exactly who these people were, but why did they form a band together? For what reason?

Minato, the singer, moved up to the mic, his golden guitar in his hands. With his voice kept to a low rumble, Minato spoke.

"So, we've been practicing a lot. You all deserve a better band. We'll be playing a song made by another group again. This time, Hiyori will be singing," Minato said, motioning to Chidori. "Since we can't do anything else, we'll try some anime songs! Now, are you ready to pierce the heavens?!"

And then Minato brought his hand down to his guitar and started the opening strums. He played loudly and, surprisingly, matched the actual song with a ridiculous amount of precision.

Mitsuru gasped. She recognized this song. It was from one of the animes they had watched during their Appointments.

Sorairo Days from Gurren Lagann.

Did... Minato know she was in the audience? That was an anime the two of them had watched together... It really appealed to Minato, but the ideas behind it, the ideas of being able to pierce the heavens and do the impossible... They really encouraged her.

Finally, Chidori went up the mic and began to sing, her tone taking on a fast and almost happy tone.

"Can you hear me?
This voice of mine was futile and sucked into the darkness.
If the world has a meaning,
Then these feelings aren't useless," she began to sing, getting more and more into it as her voice rang out. Somehow, she was on key and the band managed to match her. Chidori's voice had a certain power to it that drew in Mitsuru almost immediately.

For some reason, the band wasn't sucking tonight. The audience immediately noticed the difference and many were shocked into silence. Mitsuru sat back and sipped her water, her eyes fixed on Minato. Although it initially looked like he was effortlessly playing the guitar, she knew Minato. He was barely able to get the proper notes out in time. He was struggling to try to not be terrible.

"I was crushed by my aspiration and gave up.
Without knowing the color of the boundless sky.

Because my thoughts that started running
Are certainly knocking on my chest even now.

The me today will continue ahead.
I'll go build a tomorrow that'll become us," Chidori continued to sing, undeterred by the change in the audience. Shinjiro was hitting the drums perfectly, and Elizabeth was dancing slightly as she effortlessly played. The song was mesmerizing.

Some of the people in the audience began to cheer, thoroughly enjoying Chidori's singing voice and the emotion she was managing to put into the song. It seemed as if, somehow, the song applied to her. Mitsuru just kept watching, feeling glad she had come tonight. Chidori's voice gained a surge as she belted out the next part of the song.

"The answer, that's right, is always here.

I don't have the time to grieve about the seasons that have passed by,
So that I won't be lost again.
While I still held such
Countless and simply meager regrets,

I only pursued your back and came here.
It's something that only I, who was searching, can do.

Because the words that you gave me on that day
Certainly reach my chest even now.

Today, I'll realize the reason of my having been born
More than I did yesterday."

They continued to play, and played three more songs before they left the stage, leaving behind roaring cheers.

It was then that Mitsuru finally noticed something. The reason the band did so well was due to Chidori. Every time she had been before, Chidori had played like she was dead, barely strumming her guitar. This night, however, Chidori had seemed... alive. Her playing and singing kept the band together. Without the bass guitar supporting from underneath, their music had fallen apart. However, when the bass guitar was there for them...

Everything seemed to fall into place onto their firm foundation.

Mitsuru waved the manager over and he came quickly.

"Yes, Kirijo-sama?" He asked hesitantly.

"What's that's band's name? I completely forgot to ask," Mitsuru asked the nervous man.

"Makoto-kun's band? Huh... I believe it was something like... Cipher?" The manager replied, not too certain of the answer. Before tonight, he hardly paid attention to the band's name of all things.

"Makoto? His name is Makoto..." Mitsuru said, trailing off.

"Yes, Kirijo-sama. Makoto Yuki."

Mitsuru would have to remember that name. It was the name of Minato's alias.

With a quick goodbye, she left. The Dark Hour was coming soon and she didn't want to be at Club Escapade when it did.


May 15, 2009


Elizabeth chose to join the Music Club. Her mastery over so many instruments spoke volumes about her love for the musical arts. Fuuka was also a member, so the two of them would be able to see each other often.

'It's quite odd. I wasn't expecting to form a bond with another in this world. Especially one that didn't use the Social Link system,' Elizabeth thought to herself with a smile. A friend... Elizabeth had made a friend. She would sure make more as the year progressed. On her way to the music club, however, three girls intercepted her. One was a ganguro girl and seemed to be the leader. She smirked as her and her friends stood in front of Elizabeth, blocking her from moving forward. Because Elizabeth got distracted, she was late to club. The hallway was empty save for the four of them.

Was this the "bullying" she had heard so much about from Fuuka?

"Excuse me, but I would very much like to go to club," Elizabeth said politely. She moved forward towards a gap between the girls, but they moved and closed it, all three of them smirking.

"Sorry, freak-senpai, but we can't let you do that. You see, we're terribly hungry and can't move out of the way. How about you go buy some food for us?" The leader replied. Elizabeth tilted her head confusedly.

"Why don't you buy it yourself? Do you not have the necessary funds to do so? I'm afraid I'm not one for lending money frivolously," she asked innocently. The leader laughed.

"Such disrespect to your precious kouhai! Girls, let's show this hag how respect works!" The three moved to grab Elizabeth.

To others, Elizabeth did look weak. She had small, slender arms and was quite beautiful. She looked rather frail. However, her odd behavior and manner of speaking singled her out. She was weird to her classmates. Aigis, at the very least, had connections and friends that she was always around. She was a hard target. On the other hand, Elizabeth, with her strange manner of speaking and acting combined with the facts that she was usually alone and looked weak portrayed her as a perfect target for the girls. They really wanted to see her embarrassed or crying or angry.

Unfortunately for them, Elizabeth wasn't a weak, ordinary human girl. She was a Denizen of the Velvet Room who had lived longer and fought harder than all the three of them combined. They had no idea what they were getting into.

The girls all charged her at once, a distance of only ten feet between them.

Elizabeth barely pushed off the ground. In an instant, she was above them, performing a front flip over them and landing delicately behind them. The girls crashed to the ground, narrowly missing the blond girl as they tried to tackle her. Elizabeth could see the confusion in their faces as they rose to their feet. However, rage and embarrassment overran the part of their brains telling them to run, and they charged her again. They were going to punch her this time.

The leader reached Elizabeth first, attempting to land a blow solidly in her face. Elizabeth tilted her head out of the way of the girl's fist and, with a speed that far surpassed human limits, jabbed the girl in her forehead with only her pointer finger. The girl was sent flying back ten feet and her head hit the ground hard, knocking her into unconsciousness. The other two girls couldn't react before Elizabeth stepped between them and jabbed bother her hands out, poking each girl in the side of the head. The force sent the girls' heads each into a wall, knocking them out as well.

Elizabeth smiled as she clasped her hands together.

"Please challenge me again when you become stronger. I only used minimal strength this time," she said cheerfully as she skipped towards the club. Then she stopped, looked back, and added, "And I'm relatively young! Not a hag, you miscreants!"

'Oh, I forgot! I promised Master to not use my power... We~ll, he did say he liked it when I broke the rules. Oh, how I do love the little details!' Elizabeth thought to herself happily.

However, she wasn't the only one late to club.

Fuuka Yamagishi, knowing that her tormentors were down the hall, had hidden in fear. She saw the entire thing.

"...W-who are you, Elizabeth-san?" She asked the air.

At least now she knew why Elizabeth was so confident. Fuuka walked down the hallway, carefully stepping over the bodies of her bullies, and jogged to catch up with Elizabeth.

"Elizabeth-san, you're really strong. Just how did you..." Fuuka motioned over to the bullies. Elizabeth smiled.

"Quite simple, really. I pushed them," she replied. Fuuka's jaw dropped. Seriously? That was her response?! She just "pushed them"?!

"I've been working on making myself stronger actually. Boredom does lead one down some interesting paths," Elizabeth said, assuaging Fuuka's fears a little.

So... was Elizabeth a martial artist? Or some sort of MMA fighter. What Elizabeth didn't seem like anything Fuuka had seen in the movies, but she had to accept the idea she had come to. If she didn't, then Elizabeth had a superpower. And those were absolutely impossible. Elizabeth must have just trained her body very well. What sort of special technique did she use?

When they arrived, they saw a note on the door telling them class had been cancelled due to the Club President having to be absent for a personal affair. Fuuka sighed and was about to turn back, when Elizabeth pushed open the door. For some odd reason, the room had been left unlocked.

Elizabeth danced across the room to sit down at a grand piano placed right there, tempting her to sit and play it.

"Elizabeth-san! We shouldn't be in here! What if a teacher finds out?!" Fuuka said, trying to keep her voice quiet. Elizabeth scooted over on the bench in front of the piano and patted the seat next to her. Fuuka closed the door behind her as she entered, hoping to not get caught trying to coax Elizabeth out.

"Oh, come on, Fuuka-san! Do have a sense of adventure! Besides, we could simply say we did not see the sign on the door. Now watch as I show what my coworker Nameless taught me. I don't have Belladonna to sing the accompaniment, but this should suffice," Elizabeth said as Fuuka reluctantly moved to sit next to her.

Elizabeth moved her hands across the keys of the piano, playing the opening notes of the song.

"I call this version, 'The Poem for Everyone's Souls'!" Elizabeth declared.

And she played, the notes soothing and calming her and Fuuka. Oddly enough, no teacher did come to interrupt them. So they sat there, Elizabeth playing the piano as Fuuka listened. After the first song, Fuuka tried to play an instrument to accompany it. Although she had no mastery over a specific instrument, she knew the basics of most. She tried the viola, then the drums, and even the triangle.

"How about this, Elizabeth-san?" Fuuka asked as she struggled to hold up the tuba. "I even sanitized the mouth pie—"

Fuuka was cut off as she fell backwards, unable to hold it up any more. Elizabeth laughed and helped her up. Then Fuuka laughed too at her own ridiculousness.

They spent the next hour playing with the instruments. Elizabeth knew how to use most of them and showed Fuuka some tricks and tips, while Fuuka stumbled through the steps. However, despite the difference in their skill level, it didn't feel like a master and a student. They were two friends having a blast playing with all the instruments. Occasionally, Elizabeth would suddenly tell Fukka to stop playing and they would sit there quietly talking for five minutes until the sounds of footsteps came and went. Elizabeth seemed to know when teachers were nearby, so they managed to get through the whole hour without getting caught. The two talked a lot when they didn't play, and somehow it was even more fun when they did.

Fuuka learned that Elizabeth was new to Japan and was very unfamiliar with technological discoveries, so Fuuka, who had an interest in computers, would enlighten Elizabeth about the Internet and other advances. It seemed that Elizabeth had lived a secluded childhood. Nevertheless, Fuuka told her about Internet memes and other things related to tech; even going so far as to pull out her phone to show Elizabeth some example of memes and more than a few funny cat videos. Elizabeth excitedly soaked in the information like a sponge and it wasn't long before Elizabeth started desiring a cellphone with Internet capabilities for herself.

When they left the music room, there was another note on the door. Written in very angry hand-writing were just four words.

"YOU'RE DEAD, GAIJIN BITCH."

"They aren't afraid of another match? Oh, this shall be delightful! I do hope to see what they come up with next!" Elizabeth laughed as she pulled the note off the door, but Fuuka couldn't stop herself from paling.

Elizabeth didn't seem to understand that the strength of girl bullies wasn't entirely physical. They were going to try to destroy her reputation, her grades, her relationships, and her spirit. Fuuka began to feel a small seed of anger growing in her. She didn't know if she could stand Elizabeth, who was so kind to her, becoming broken like her.


Yukari sighed as she stood in front of the Student Council room. Earlier, she had tried to talk with Mitsuru, but she couldn't quite find the words. She could never quite find the words.

Aigis had been distant lately and Yukari knew that she was busy focusing on her own past. After all, the girl had lost her family and her childhood memories. Logically, Yukari's loss was much smaller in comparison. Yukari knew she could no longer full rely on Aigis. She had to find things out on her own...

But should she really take it directly to Mitsuru?

Yukari didn't knock on the door, didn't open it. She couldn't let this thing keep hanging over her head. For now, Yukari would just hide the questions and all the emotions that went with it. That was really the best option.

Was it? If she knew of some way to infiltrate the files of the Kirijo Group, some way to get definitive information from them without getting caught, then maybe she could actually move forward with her investigation.

"Hey, Yukari-chan? What are you doing here?" A voice asked. Shocked, Yukari turned to find not only Aigis who had just spoken, but also Minato.

'Oh, that's right. I wanted to talk to Minato-senpai too. I never really got the chance to connect with him before he disappeared before,' Yukari thought to herself.

"Uh, well... I was going to talk to Mitsuru-senpai, but it really isn't that important. I'll wait till she returns to the dorm," Yukari said, ready to leave.

'I'll just leave, forget this ever happened, and wait to say anything. Best case scenario, they forget I was ever here,' Yukari thought to herself, imagining the worst case scenario in which Mitsuru finds out she was there just doing nothing. It would just seem creepy and stalkerish!

"Hey, Yukari-san?" Minato asked, interrupting her thought process.

"Y-yes?" She answered.

"I know we've barely talked to each other and really have barely even seen each other, but I've been talking to Aigis-chan about what happened after I left. I just wanted to thank you for going out of your way to bring me back after I ran away. You really didn't have to do anything like that, so thanks," he said to her with a smile.

Yukari looked away, unable to meet his eyes.

"I-It's no problem," she said as she walked past him. In truth, she really was more dragged into going after him. She didn't want to be left alone, so she went. Sure, she wanted to be friends with him, but how much of a motivation was that? How big of a part did that play in her going to find him with the others?

His sincere thanks only made her feel guilty.


"These two are joining us a little bit late, but I trust they will work hard. I'm sure you all know of Minato Arisato. This other girl is Aigis Kubomi, the transfer student from earlier in the semester," Mitsuru explained to the Student Council as she presented the duo. The Student Council room had a lot of desks all pushed together to form one big U, with Student Council members sitting at a few of the desks. There seemed to be members missing today.

Mitsuru, Minato, and Aigis were standing in the middle of the big U. Of course the members of the Student Council knew of Minato Arisato, the ghost captain of the Kendo club that won their tournaments every now and then. If that wasn't enough, the title "Pimpnato" was familiar to all of them.

Aigis, on the other hand, caught some small amount of attention. She seemed to be a rather odd choice, but the student council didn't argue.

"Hmm. Looks like a troublemaker has joined the Student Council. I'm Hidetoshi Odagiri. I supervise the Disciplinary Committee. I'd watch your ass if I were you, Arisato-kun. As a member of the student council, you can't be running around skipping class and committing all sorts of PDAs," a boy with gray, slicked backed hair said. Minato smiled. He'd forgotten that he technically did skip a lot of class, even if a good majority of it was excused. As for the Public Displays of Affection...

They never happened!

"Well, Odagiri-san, I'm quite glad you aren't me. People would find it quite odd if you always stared at your own ass," Minato replied passive-aggressively. Hidetoshi chuckled. Mitsuru inwardly snickered. Minato had changed so much from when she was a kid. Maybe it was the time he spent with Chidori and Shinjiro, but Minato never used to make comebacks quite like that.

"I'll welcome you to the Student Council then. Just remember... I'm always watching," Hidetoshi said before turning to Aigis. "As for you, you have a very clean record, very free of any sort of trouble-making. I think that we can get along together just fine."

Aigis tilted her head.

"Are you... hitting on me?" She asked boldly. The rest of the room exploded in whispers.

"Oh, so that's the kind of girl Odagiri-san likes?"

"How bold of him to hit on a her as soon as he meets her!"

"Damn it, I wanted to hit on her first!"

Hidetoshi looked angrily about the room, his face bright red.

"It's not like that! I was not suggesting anything of the sort! There is rule forbidding doing something so publicly and I never break the rules! I enforce them!" He exclaimed. The voices didn't stop.

"What a hypocrite."

"Is the rule relating to sexual harassment? Did Odagiri-san sexually harass Aigis-chan?"

"Odagiri-san, you pervert!"

Quietly, his face crimson red, Hidetoshi sat back down and placed his face upon the table. Another girl was standing and she bowed to the trio. She had long brown hair and glasses. All in all, she was very average looking. In a crowd, she most likely would just fade into the background.

"I'm Chihiro Fushimi, the Treasurer. I'm a sophomore and... um... I'm still learning the ropes... so... umm... p-please be patient with me," the girl, Chihiro, said while looking only at Aigis.

Chihiro simply could not make eye contact with Minato, Mitsuru noted. It was fun to see others interact with Minato. He was a rumored playboy who missed out on class on various occasions. Chihiro, who was very shy and couldn't even talk to boys, would have a very hard time speaking with Minato. Which was just fine for Mitsuru.

"Nice to meet you, Fushimi-san. Please don't hesitate to ask me questions. As your senpai, I'd be glad to help. I hope the two of us can get along," Minato said to her, trying to get her to at least look at him. She did, but her eyes immediately dropped to the floor afterwards. He noticed her fidgeting and shifting from one foot to the other, her face a little flushed.

"Okay," Chihiro said as she stared at her feet. Mitsuru was trying very hard to contain her laughter. Her Student Council, the group of people she had been working with since the start of the semester, was being reduced one by one. Hidetoshi had slammed his face onto his desk, Chihiro was silent as she stared at the floor, and it had only taken a matter of minutes.

Who else should Mitsuru introduce these two to?

Normally, Mitsuru wouldn't enjoy this so much, but after what had happened after the past few weeks, she needed to have fun, to loosen up her mood. Labrys coming home and Minato coming to school again helped a lot, even if the suspicious things surrounding the events caused her to worry.

"So!" Hidetoshi exclaimed as he stood up, finally recovered from the embarrassment. "I look forward to working with you, Kubomi-san, I'll make sure you get caught if you get into any trouble, "Pimpnato", and I wasn't hitting on anybody!" He suddenly stormed out the door, unable to take the laughs of the rest of the Student Council.

Mitsuru noticed Aigis' eyes glazed over for a few seconds. After those seconds passed, Aigis, oddly enough, pumped her fist in the air. Mitsuru noticed her say "Emperor" below her breath, though she couldn't understand why. Aigis was indeed a very... interesting person.

After that, Mitsuru tried to introduce the rest of the Student Council, but, fearing the powers to embarrass that the duo possessed, they fled.

Student Council was dismissed.

"Minato, can I talk with you?" Mitsuru asked. She eyes Aigis and looked back at Minato. "Alone?"

Aigis, getting the message, left the two of them. With the rest of the Student Council gone, it was just the two of them in the room.

"What is it, Mitsuru?' Minato asked, knowing full well what she wanted to know. Mitsuru sighed. She had so much she wanted to say, so much she wanted to ask. She wanted to hold him and ask him why he didn't want to come home, she wanted to know what is he was doing in that band and why, she wanted to know why he was with those three and what his relationships with them were... But in the end, she felt she needed to ask him only one question for herself. Let Aigis figure out the rest. She needed to ask this.

"You haven't forgotten... right? I'm still waiting for your answer," Mitsuru asked, letting herself be vulnerable in front of him once more. Maybe he'd tell her he moved on. Maybe he'd tell her he made a choice. She knew he probably hadn't come to a conclusion yet, but still...

"I'll never forget. The second I understand this thing called love, I'll tell you. But right now..." Minato trailed off before picking up his words again. "There's so much happening right now, things that I can't tell you. I want to give you a full explanation. I want to give you your answer. You deserve them. However, right now I'm in a precarious position and I fear it will only grow more and more precarious. When things can settle down, when I can sleep in my room at the dorm once again, when I understand my own feelings... then I can tell you everything. I'm sorry, Mitsuru. I'm sorry you have to love such a troublesome person. I don't really deserve it," Minato said, his eyes drifting to the ground.

Minato knew he was causing trouble for her. Mitsuru saw his words for what they were. He was asking her to trust him and regretting every moment he couldn't tell her everything. When she was a child, Mitsuru and Minato always were able to speak about what problems they were having. Rather, she was the one who told him everything while he listened, but she listened to him on the rare occasion when he was upset. Mitsuru trusted Minato more than anybody else in the world.

Mitsuru took a step forward and embraced Minato, much to his surprise.

"Would it shock you if I told you that you do deserve it?" She placed a kiss on his cheek and let go, walking past the shocked Minato and out the door.

"I'll be waiting," she said as she left, her face possessing only a seductive smile.

As soon as she left the door, her face turned bright red enough to match her hair. Quickly, she pulled out the small book from her back pocket and flipped through it to see if she had done the exit right.

She recently picked it up from a nearby bookstore. The old couple running it was very kind, but their kindness had only made her embarrassment worse.

999 Ways To Conquer Your Crush by K. Katsuragi.

...Maybe Yukari knew some better ways?

That was really embarrassing! She couldn't do 998 more things like that!


Minato stood in the room, frozen.

"What was... that?" he asked nobody.

[Mitsuru's on the attack.] Orpheus answered him quietly.

Sure, she kissed him before, but that was just...

"I... uh... I just... She's really... no longer a little girl, huh..."

It was odd that he said that, but the image he had always had of Mitsuru, he now realized, was of her as a child watching anime with him every Sunday. He hadn't changed in appearance all these years, but Mitsuru had been growing. She'd been maturing.

He... needed to acknowledge that.

[You, my friend, have some thinking to do.]


Later that night, Elizabeth was sitting in the lounge in the back of Club Escapade, reflecting on the fun day she had. Fuuka Yamagishi... her friend. Somebody not related to the Velvet Room had become her friend. Elizabeth was now beginning to experience something she had not experienced before. Bonds were powerful. She of course knew that from her experiences with Minato, but that was just one bond. Two bonds were more powerful. They brought her so much joy that she couldn't stop grinning for the entirety of the day.

What if she had three bonds? Or four? What if she had one hundred?

Elizabeth began to truly comprehend the full power of the Wild Card then. To have so many bonds, so many people there for you who know of you... Could there be a more satisfying experience?

"Elizabeth? I'm going out into the club. Just tell anybody that if they ask," Minato said as he moved past her towards the door. His hair was its regular blue/white combo; he hadn't taken the time to put the coloring into it. There was no performance tonight, so "Makoto Yuki" didn't need to appear. His band wasn't well known enough for the weekend performances.

"Why?" Elizabeth asked, perplexed as to why Minato would go out. Would he be ingesting alcohol? Surely he can't do that without a "designated driver" (or so she had been told by the televisions of this world).

"I'm going to be telling Aigis-chan what happened to me all those years ago. The night my parents die—"

"I'm coming too!" Elizabeth exclaimed suddenly.

"Uh... Okay..?" Minato replied, not sure how to tell her no. And why should he? It wasn't like he'd be saying something she probably didn't already know.

In truth, Elizabeth had seen what had happened in Minato's dreams thousands of times. It may not be painful for him anymore to talk about, but now that she finally had the chance to be with him and hear him talk about it... Elizabeth wouldn't have taken no for an answer.

Minato went through the busy kitchen area with Elizabeth following close behind him. He walked past the bar, noting for only a second the depressed man with curly black hair and a beige jacket over his pink shirt who he almost walked into, and then took his seat at the table far in the back. Elizabeth sat beside him, a smile shining brightly on her face. He kept his eyes on the door so that he could wave Aigis over when she arrived. He'd made sure the bouncers didn't stop her by talking to the manager earlier.

What he didn't know, however, was that seated exactly two tables away was Mitsuru, who had come to see Minato perform.

'That's odd. He looks like he's waiting for someone. And why is he waiting with that Elizabeth girl?' Mitsuru noted as she stayed her distance. Although she had asked Aigis to collect information for her, that didn't mean she couldn't find out some on her own, right? Besides there was no way that Aigis could even get in he—

Aigis walked through the doors of Club Escapade. She was able to see Minato wave her over the distance and walked over, dressed in a black blouse with a short yellow jacket over it. She had on a black skirt as well, and knee-high black boots. She was dressed far too nicely for Mitsuru not to notice. She watched the scene with rapt interest, trying to deduce why or how Minato would possibly be meeting her like this.

As Aigis passed by her, Mitsuru looked away, using the dim lighting of the club to hide herself. It seemed to work and Aigis made it over to Minato and Elizabeth. It couldn't be a date, could it? Elizabeth was there as well, oddly enough. It... couldn't be? Could Minato be seeing both of them?!

'No... I have to trust him. There's a reason for this. I just need to trust him,' Mitsuru thought to herself. Yet she still scooted her seat closer to their table so she could hear what they were saying.

"You're right on time. You look like you've dressed up. It looks nice," Minato said to Aigis, trying to be polite. She flashed a smile in response. These were her "clubbing clothes"... For when she went clubbing. Which was never, but it never hurt to be prepared.

"Hello, Aigis-san! It has been so long since we've seen each other, has it not? How is Theodore doing?" Elizabeth greeted, a smile on her face.

Mitsuru's ears perked up. 'They know each other? Why didn't she tell me? I mean, I didn't ask, but that seems like rather important information! Especially when I give you a job to give me some information on her! And who's Theodore?! Gah!'

"It has been a while. A little too long, perhaps. Theodore is nice. He gave me a student discount," Aigis said to Elizabeth with a smile. She then turned to her attention to Minato and raised an eyebrow. "I got the impression it would just be you that I'd be meeting. Not that it matters. Does Elizabeth already know everything that happened to you then?"

"Yes. I do," Elizabeth answered. "I met Minato not too long after it happened."

'After what happened...? Minato... what happened to you?' Mitsuru thought, now a little bit worried for what could have possibly happened to Minato. Was it something recent? Or was it something before she even met Minato?

"Alright, let me start my story. Now, before we go any further, you must promise not to tell anyone, especially Mitsuru. When I told Labrys, things went badly. It will be even worse if Mitsuru finds out without me telling her directly. In fact, I'm not quite sure I can tell her. She's... We've been together for so long. I don't want to ruin our relationship," Minato explained.

"Okay. I can keep that secret easily. Now let's get on with it," Aigis replied.

'He told Labrys something that made things bad between them? What is he talking about? Relationship... Together... Is he... Is Minato gay?' Mitsuru thought in fear. Sure, she'd support him in it and there was nothing wrong with it, but it would a major disappointment for her. Then again, if he and Akihiko were to...

Mitsuru dispelled the thoughts by smashing her head against the table.

"Alright, so I should get this started. My parents and I had been heading home from the movies when it happened. The first Dark Hour I had ever experienced," Minato started. His voice was monotone, as if he was cutting off all emotion to merely tell this story.

'Parents... No, he's talking about his original creators, right?' Mitsuru thought, almost believing that Minato actually had parents.

"It happened suddenly and there was this loud explosion as the world changed colors. I didn't remember exactly what happened afterwards, but I do remember crawling out of my parent's car and calling for them. And there they were, crushed by the car. We'd crashed into the side of the bridge we'd been driving on. I screamed, I broke, and then I changed. Thus, my childhood ended. Soon after that, a monster appeared," Minato explained, his eyes fixated not on Elizabeth or Aigis, but on some point far, far away.

'No... It can't be... He... He's still talking about creators, right? He survived because he was an ASW, right?' Mitsuru tried to tell herself. However... his story... it seemed like he wasn't telling it from the perspective of an ASW. What exactly was going on?

"I could only stare at it as it moved towards me. My parents had died. I had lost my mother and father. If it was going to kill me too, then I would let it. I would have died then without any will to live. My family was gone. I had been told my sister was dead only a year or two before and the only other member of my family was my grandfather. But he didn't want me... I digress. The monster appeared, and then something else appeared. A person came... no... that's not it?" Minato questioned, holding his head in pain. Elizabeth rubbed his back gently as he worked through the pain.

Aigis was dead silent. This was possibly the most important conversation in her life.

"I can't remember. Sorry, Aigis-chan. Next thing I do remember is waking up in the Kirijo's lab. I was no longer human. I was six years old at the time," Minato said, leaving out the part about Philemon. No need to complicate it. She didn't need to know that.

'...No...No... Dear God... All this time... It makes sense too... Why didn't I see it?! The way you reacted, the way you did everything was barely anything like all the other ASWs I'd been shown! When I called you M1N470, I was denying your humanity... Why didn't you... tell me?' Mitsuru thought, unable to even move. She knew why he didn't tell her. Would she have believed him? Would she have been able to trust him as much? Would he have even been able to stay with her?

Mitsuru stood from her chair and walked over to Minato's table.

"So then, what does this me—" Aigis started, but she was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Mitsuru.

"M-Mitsuru?!" Minato exclaimed as he suddenly shot to his feet. How much did she hear?!

Mitsuru hugged him suddenly and quietly said to him just two words.

"ᴵ'ᵐ ˢᵒʳʳʸ⋅"

And then she left as quickly as she had appeared.

Minato was going to chase after her, but he didn't know what he would say. What was she sorry for? He's the one that should be sorry! He lied to her all this time! Why was he being apologized to?! What did her "sorry" mean?!

Minato dropped back into his chair.

"Aigis-chan. I think you have your information," he said, not even looking at her. He could only stare at the door that Mitsuru had just left through. Aigis stood and bowed.

"Thanks for the information. I do need to get back and study for midterms next week. I'll try to get you the contact information once they're over," Aigis said before leaving.

'Midterms? Oh, right...'

Minato, having completely forgotten about midterms, still couldn't move.

Elizabeth waved goodbye to Aigis, but could only sit and watch Minato, not wanting to touch him at this point in time.

"...There's another problem," Minato said. He sat there for a few minutes, a scowl on his face. "Elizabeth, I'm such a coward. Why can't I ever pursue someone when they need me most?"

Elizabeth scooted her chair closer to him and grabbed his cheeks, pinching them before moving them to force a smile.

"I like you better like this. You're not perfect, Minato, so you don't need to be concerned with your lack of perfection. Nobody is perfect. Besides, would pursuing her even be the best option?" Elizabeth asked him.

Minato didn't know.

But her words... "I'm sorry"?


Minato went back into his room and stared at the wall for the next hour or so.

Why did he understand so little about being human? He couldn't even fathom what she was thinking now. He couldn't fathom what he was even thinking by not going after her. If he could just explain, if he could just tell her why he kept it secret all this time... He didn't feel human. He couldn't tell anybody because it felt so much like a lie. When Labrys ran, he didn't pursue her. When Mitsuru ran, he didn't pursue her. When he got hurt, though, he ran away and everyone pursued him.

Why was he so weak?

"Hey, Elizabeth-san told me what happened," Shinji said as he entered the room. Minato didn't even turn to look at him. Shinji got more than a little pissed off at this.

Suddenly, Minato felt an impact on his left cheek and was sent flying into the wall. He shook his head out and looked at Shinji from his position on the ground.

"You and I both know that Mitsuru always blames herself whenever something happens! So, her finding out that you used to be human is only going to make hurt her like everything always has! Do you want to change that, Minato?! Then stop bitching and moaning like you're the one who was hurt! God, this is why we never got along. You're too much like Mitsuru. When you're not thinking you're above everyone else, you're blaming yourself for failing to be better. Just freakin' let go and move on. Deal with your problems. Crying about it won't fix it. If you want Chidori and me to do the same, you have to live by example, you know?" Shinji said.

Minato nodded and Shinji extended a hand to him, helping Minato back to his feet.

"You're... right. Thanks. I needed that," Minato said with a smile. Shinji flashed him a smirk as he left. It was then that Minato noticed the blood on Shinji's fist from punching his metal face. Chidori passed by Shinji as he walked out, her arms full of books. Confused, Minato tilted his head.

"Are you here to talk to me too?" He asked. Chidori said nothing and only sat on his bed, distributing the books around it for several seconds. When she finished, Chidori spoke.

"Midterms are next week. Since your school teaches at such a mediocre level, I don't need to prepare. However, you look like you'll need assistance," Chidori said without so much as a smile. Although he'd ranked up twice with her, there wasn't seeming to be any blatantly visible change. Except for, of course, the words hidden in her actions. "So, for the next few hours, just focus on me teaching you. Nothing else needs to matter. Put aside your worries, at least while I'm here. Focus on me and nothing else, got it? School is important, you know."

Minato smiled. He got her message loud and clear. She might not be loud and violent like Shinji, but Chidori got her point across when she wanted to. These were his team members. These were his friends. If he was going to tell them that they didn't need to face their problems alone, then they were going to tell him the same.

It was sometimes easy to forget you weren't alone.

He'd have to talk to Mitsuru as soon as possible.


Yukari sat on her bed, checking her text messages. She really wanted to do something. Maybe she could do some late night partying? Was anybody doing anything? It was a Friday night, after all, and she was just an average high school girl. She needed to have some fun to take her mind off things.

It was at this time that she happened to receive a phone call from Aigis, her partner in investigation. She answered with a friendly hello, but Aigis' tone sounded somewhat panicked.

"Yukari-chan, I think the Kirijo Group might have started the Dark Hour ten years ago. That's probably why your dad died. I'll be over soon to explain the specifics."

Yukari dropped the phone and fell backwards onto her bed.

"W-What...?"

And, in an instant, she lost all concern for having fun that night.

"No way..."

Yukari, after hearing that information, could only say such words.


SWS: Mitsuru: The Truth


All my life, I had been lied to by adults.

So, to be honest, the part about Minato lying to me didn't bother me one bit. We all have our secrets... our skeletons we hide in our closets.

Rather... instead of feeling anger, I felt regret. I fell again into blaming myself. How many times had I not listened to him because he wasn't human? How many times I had I hurt him? It was one thing when I thought he only thought of himself as human, but for him to have actually been one? I had never thought it possible. I still find it hard to believe.

Yet...

Minato didn't charge. He slept on a bed.

He hated being called M1N470.

He ate whenever he took the opportunity and slept often, despite him really not needing to.

...I need time to think.

I need to speak with him.

How could he possibly give me an answer to my confession when he knows what is was like to have been human? When he knows that he could never have a normal relationship ever again? He can't have children, he can't grow old with me. He'll only watch me die. Just like he watched his parents die. I was being unfair.

I'm sorry, Minato.

Once again, I had been selfish. I didn't know. I had no idea. It must have been too hard to tell anyone. Did you even see yourself as human most of the time? If everyone treats you like something, then don't you come to think that you are that thing? I don't know how or when you remembered that you were more human than machine, but you must have only thought of yourself as nothing more than a machine for the longest time.

And it's my fault.

It's your fault too for not telling me...

Can I really blame you though?

I need time to think.

How did you even become this way?

You know, it's funny. When I was a kid, I used to imagine that you were human, Minato. Sometimes, you were the human knight in armor or were just cursed to become trapped in that armor. Then, you know… we'd have to solve it the way all fantasy problems are solved. With a kiss. However, it was a child's dream and I know for a fact a kiss can't help you.

I can't help you at all.


Omake: Stregadventures! Akinari the New Guy!


"Hey, guys!" Akinari greeted as he walked opened the door.

Only to have a bucket of ink fall right onto his head and his nice white suit.

"Hahaha!" Takaya and Jin both laughed, rolling on the floor like little children. Akinari still smiled. His dry-cleaning bill was going to be big today.

"I see, this is the initiation?" He asked as he wiped the ink from his eyes. He then took a step forward...

And was tripped by a tripwire... and landed face first into a pie.

Takay and Jin's laughter evolved into literal squeals of joy as Akinari raised his face from the pie, his smile now a little shaken.

"Haha. Very funny guys..." He said as he now tried to wipe pie from his eyes.

"Cannonball!" Ikutsuki exclaimed as he suddenly ran into the room and jumped onto Akinari, slamming his face into the pie once again.

"Dog pile for Nyx-sama!" Takaya shouted as he jumped onto Akinari and Ikutsuki. Jin joined him too, and soon all the guys were lying on top of each other with Akinari on the bottom.

...

...

...

They sat there in silence, not entirely sure what to do next.

"We really need more female members..." Ikutsuki said as he lay on top of Akinari. "Why'd we let Chidori-chan go away?"

As they laid there dog piled together, the members of Strega collectively sighed.


NEXT: CHAPTER 19: The Trials and Tribulations of A High School Male

With Mitsuru finding out the truth and Minato facing midterms, it's going to be a high-strung week! Not to mention that Junpei has to face the demon known as studying! Akihiko and Shinjiro need to sit down and have a talk as well, but with an unpleasant past to get out the way and exams on the horizon, will they even be able to have time to sit down and chat? And finally, will Minato be able to make that much needed phone call to his sister?!

Find out next chapter!


A/N: So, I've got a few announcements. First of all, I'm going to try and put little previews like the above at the end of each chapter. Secondly, I'm putting progress updates on my profile, so you can now check and see how close I am to finishing a chapter. That way you can get excited when it gets closer and stuff.

Also, I put up a poll on my profile. I was thinking of starting a forum on this site where people can discuss my fics and also chat with each other. That way, instead of trying to figure out who "golden eyes" is or speculating what will happen all by yourself, you can talk with each other. I'll also be there, so you can feel free to give me your thoughts, questions, and ideas. What do you think? Please go vote m(-.-)m

Also, Shadow Arisato took one of my ideas. It's a Sword Art Online and Persona crossover. He's new at writing, but it's pretty good so far so please support him!

I'd also like to ask again to help contribute to this fic's TV Tropes page as it still is lacking. Let's make it awesome. Finally, please check out the Fandom Flux podcast starring me, Casey W, Kenchi618, and Slicerness! Link is on my profile. :D

So, in this chapter, we got to see Elizabeth actually start to make a sort of life for herself at school. Look forward to the bullies calling in their tough boyfriends, sabotaging Elizabeth's desk and trying to embarrass her. They don't know who they are dealing with.

Also, Mitsuru finally found out the truth. Mitsuru has a very bad habit of blaming herself for everything due to so much pressure always being on her because of her family. Whereas Labrys gets angry and feels betrayed, Mitsuru immediately goes to feeling like she's a terrible person. Which is no bueno. So she and Minato both do have plenty of character development to go through.

Yukari is going to thrown an interesting wrench into everything. Maybe not next chapter, or even the chapter after that, but... She's going to become very important very soon.

Review Reply Time!:

monhanfan4g: Thanks a lot for the kind words! I think you should enjoy the Fuuka in this chapter. We really are seeing her while she is still being bullied, so she might be a little different. She's more, well, scared.

psychoyoshi79: I love you for reading this story twice. Your review made me super happy and helped me write this chapter! I'm liking Chidori and Minato too!

Ascarde: LOL MIDTERMS... for the cast of this fic. Thanks for the kind words. I really do need more happy moments. As for a sad Chidori moment... Well, her "curing" is going to be very much different from Shinjiro's. The similarities and differences between the Arcanas will be addressed there.

Wren Truesong: Ah, a TV Tropes fan (Please help contribute to the page XD)! Welcome and thanks for the review! And yeah, I do like Metis and all the other characters in this fic. Your review also made me really happy. Having this fic being called one of the best.. it makes me feel, you know, accomplished.

bamafelix: Wow. People are really liking Minato and Chidori. Interesting~

Mr. Haziq: Her ice has many layers, though. Rank 5 for her is a pretty interesting point as we see her now actually more willing to let him get closer to her and she even is there for him when he needs her. However, she still keeps her distance. It isn't exactly rank 10. Thanks for the help and kind words once again!

IronShounen: You have no idea how complicated this is going to get. (I think people are forgetting about Minato's Death Link *wink wink nudge nudge*). :)

Anon: Short review, but I'll take it. Not sure what it means, though...

Guest: People voted for Chidori to enter Minato's harem, so they got it and now everybody is loving it! Thanks so much for the compliments! As for the combat, I'll try to work on that. My mind automatically separates paragraphs based on shifting ideas, which don't happen very often in fights. Sorry 'bout that.

BrokenGears: Yes, sir!

Will: Yeah... I need more happy scenes... It's just too easy to write unhappy scenes, you know? Thanks for the compliments :D

Silvonea: I'll try my best not to change things from now. It's just... you know... I want this story to be good. Anyway, thanks for liking this story!

Follia Della Rovina: At first, I wondered if you were a new reader, but then I saw that you changed your name XD It's harder to type... Anyway, I'm glad you liked the chapter!

crymblade: I like Combat Mode. Just wait until Orgia Mode. Akinari is very interesting... What happened with him will be revealed much later, but I expect you will enjoy it. And Minato is not quite fully developed. He's trying to put more of the burden on himself, even if he doesn't fully realize it. When we get to Chidori's "curing", his "saving people" will be addressed.

stoke66: I'm really glad you like this story! Reviews like yours are what help me to write these chapter :D

overlord7: I really liked writing that scene. Chidori is fun to write for.

Shadow Arisato: Incidentally, next chapter will have a lot of Shinji. :D

Sacchin: All hail the Pimpnato! And Naoto is coming! Probably not until after the next full moon fight, though...

SuperNova23: Alas, nobody sent me the link. And something has happened to Akinari to make him like this. You'll find out later. Expect to see more Chidori and Yukari in the future! I've got some good plans for them!

salman21: Oddly enough, a lot of people like their introductions a lot. I like 'em too!

BloodBoredom: Yeah, I went over it after your review and fixed most if not all of them. Thanks for pointing that out! I was kind of hoping my beta could fix up some stuff, but he was really busy... Anyway, please tell me if there's anything wrong in this chapter :D

HellPwnage1337: You won't find out his solution until the next full moon :P

The Hooded Star Destroyer 217: You're the other person who changed their name! Gosh, I think it's a new reader and then I found out I know that reader! I mean, it's not a bad thing, but it is a surprise. Anyway, more character development coming up!

SEESWildCard: He's not bad... probably. Nah, he might just be totally evil. And yes, things are going to go to hell, become awesome, and then come back.

Thanks so much for the reviews! I love you guys!

Question of the Chapter: Can you point out all the Social Link People and references in this chapter? There are a ton of them! Gotta catch 'em all! Edit: No, you don't have to point out obvious main characters. Sorry for the lack of clarification.

REVIEW, FAVORITE, FOLLOW! Pretty please with Fuuka holding a tuba on top?