(October 2nd, 2009, Start of the Dark Hour)
Arisato Minato sighed, flipping through his history book as his music blared in his ears. Across the coffee table from him sat his younger twin, who played with her auburn hair as she followed his example, save for a classical literature textbook. The twins had decided to spend the night studying instead of climbing Tartarus for various reasons; they had gotten as far as they could in the block as it was, and the full moon was coming up soon. Better to stay at the dorms and rest (and get some studying done) than wear themselves out doing more tower climbing when they were confident that the next Arcana Shadow or two would be in the bag as well.

"Jeeze, it's dead." Hamuko spoke up after a moment, looking around as she pulled off her headphones when the Dark Hour hit. Minato gave a nod, grey eyes worried as he pulled his own headphones off. Both twins looked around, only spotting a girl with teal-colored hair nearby, putting aside her own studying. "Fuuka-chan?" Hamuko called out to her, catching her attention. "Is there anyone else besides us here at the dorms?"

"I think it's us, Junpei-kun, Aigis-chan, Akihiko-senpai, and Mitsuru-senpai." Fuuka gave a nod, brow furrowed in worry as she approached the twins as well. "I think Yukari-chan said she was spending a night over at a friend's house to get some studying done, and Shinjiro-senpai's out walking Koromaru."

"... Then where's Ken?" Minato frowned at that, looking around. The twins had noticed the young child acting odd the past week, and Makoto didn't like having him out of his sight for long. "If he's not asleep, then ..."

"I can do a quick scan with Lucia to try and find him, if you like." Fuuka gave a helpful smile. "I was going to keep Lucia active for the Dark Hour, just in case ..." Minato nodded at that, relaxing with a smile.

"Yeah; thanks, Fuuka." He nodded, gathering up his school supplies. Hamuko did the same thing, several extra sheets of math homework sitting next to her. "... Hamuko, is there a test in advanced mathematics you keep forgetting to bring up?"

"Nope!" The auburn twin laughed, eyes bright. "Just general homework for the night and all; y'know mom would've been upset if I didn't do my best!" Minato shook his head and smiled at that, amused. Leave it to Hamuko … "C'mon, Nii-chan, I can help you go over some of your own math notes in your room, if you want to."

"Please." Minato let out a sigh of relief as the twins headed towards the stairs, Fuuka right behind them. "That's always been my worst subject, so any pointers you could give me would help." Splitting off from Fuuka when they reached the second floor, both twins kept talking quietly as they entered the room, only to blink in surprise to see a black-haired, ten-year-old boy in striped pajamas sitting on Minato's desk, worried. "Pharos?"

"Pharos, is something wrong?" Hamuko asked, worried. Walking towards the black-haired child, Hamuko looked out the window with him. "... Are there more Shadows out there?"

"I don't know." Pharos gave a sad reply, clinging onto Hamuko's arm as Minato walked over to join them. "I just feel .. something wrong going on with the Tower. Something that isn't supposed to happen in this world is beginning ..."

"You mean …" Minato's eyes widened in fear, but his response was cut off as the ground shook. "A – an earthquake!?" Grabbing onto his twin sister, Minato gripped the desk as the shockwave ceased a moment later, something that sounded like a roar echoing in the distance. The sound served to wake up the rest of the dorm, and from the sound of cursing down the hall, Akihiko had gotten bruised from a falling trophy once again.

"Everyone! please! Come up to the Control room!" Fuuka's panicked shout echoed through the dorm a second later, making Minato swear as he grabbed the sword he kept behind his door on the way out. Hamuko followed him a few seconds later, Pharos vanishing from his seat on the desk as he trailed behind. Two of the other doors on the floor had opened up, Junpei and Akihiko darting out as well.

The group reached the fourth floor a few moments later, finding Mitsuru and Aigis up there already, Fuuka with them. The teal-haired girl seemed panicked about something from within her Persona's protective skirt, hands clenching at her uniform blazer. "I … there's something going on at Tartarus! All I can feel is this massive surge of energy, and it's pulsating ..." Fuuka explained, nervous. "I can't get a hold of Yukari-chan, Shinjiro-senpai, Koro-chan or Ken-kun either."

At her words, a second screechrang through the air, shattering one of the windows on the fourth floor. Hitting the deck, the members of S.E.E.S stared as something large seemed to block out the moon for a few seconds, followed by sharp gusts of wind that made the tall building shake. "What on earth!?" Mitsuru stood up a moment later, Aigis right behind her. "Aigis, are you picking up anything that might help Yamagishi?"

"Y – yes; I can sense something, but not much due to the massive power surge from the tower ..." Fuuka was biting her lip now, brows furrowed in concentration. Aigis gave a nod before appearing to slip into a trance, scanning alongside Fuuka.

"... Unknown life-forms are emerging from an anomaly inside Tartarus." The robot spoke up after a moment, coming out of her scanning trance. "There are multiples of them, all large enough to be mistaken for the Arcana Shadows. They are most likely the source of the tremors and building damage."

"Dammit ..." Akihiko swore, belting on his Evoker as he spoke. "What the hell could be coming out of there?!"

"I don't know, but we shouldn't be staying here too much lon … ger ..." Junpei's voice had tapered out, and he suddenly ran to the window. "... Okay please tell me I'm just seeing shit!" the capped teen shouted after a moment, before standing aside and pointing. "PLEASE tell me I'm not the only one seeing that!"

Hamuko ran over first, the rest of SEES close behind. Following the way Junpei was pointing, the group stared as a large creature landed on a nearby building, large wings fanning. It was hard to make out details in the horrible lighting of the Dark Hour, but it appeared reptilian, a long neck and equally long tail balancing out the large wings. As the group stared, it let out a gigantic roar, the building shaking a bit.

"That is a fucking DRAGON!"

Minato felt himself pale as Junpei spoke, not knowing just how to respond. Shadows were one thing; he knew a Persona could go toe-to-toe with Shadows, and even if he wasn't strong enough to handle one, the rest of SEES was there as well to help out. But … but a dragon? How were dragons even exiting Tartarus!? Where did they even come from?!

Shaking his head, the blue-haired teen tried to collect himself, knowing the rest of S.E.E.S was staring at him. He was the field leader, after all … this would be his call. "... We should head to Tartarus. If nothing else, to try and get a better understanding of how this is going on." Swallowing, Minato gripped his sword tighter. "... I'm going to get my Evoker. Let's head out in five minutes."

Sighing in relief when he was met with nods of agreement, Minato gripped his sword as he strapped it onto his belt on the way down the stairs. His nerves were all tense as he went over the list of Personae he had with him, trying to see if there was one that would at least resist fire, let alone null it. 'Why did I get rid of Pyro Jack?' He thought to himself as he entered his room.

Five minutes later, the group found themselves racing through the streets of Iwatodai, keeping to the shadows as more dragons seemed to be flying about, roars and screeches rending the air as the beats landed on buildings with thuds, totaling some of the smaller ones while a few seemed to be flying towards the bay. Broken coffins began to litter the street, Minato himself spotting one that looked like it had been bitten in half as something went after the sleeping human inside.

One dragon in particular seemed to be chasing something; the blue-haired teen had caught sight of it flying around the main part of Iwatodai, near Naganaki Shrine. What it could be after, Makoto couldn't tell, but it seemed large …

His thoughts were cut off as they reached the gate to Tartarus, and he skidded to a halt. The front gate and doors to the tower had been destroyed, massive claw marks as long as they were all tall littering the well-kept grounds that had once belonged to their high school. The doorway itself seemed to have been torn apart to give the dragons more room to fly out into the now scarlet sky above them, the moon an eerie silver color.

"The overwhelming energy seems to be coming … from underground ..." Fuuka spoke up, staring. "P-perhaps the dragons ripping their way out of the basement?"

"If they did, then that bodes even more ill." Mitsuru scowled, drawing her rapier as she walked closer to the doorway. "None seem to be emerging now; let's enter before more escape." Nodding in agreement, Minato drew his sword and led the charge, frowning when he saw that the main stairway into Tartarus proper had been demolished, rubble blocking the doorway to the Velvet Room.

Instead, a gaping hole took up most of the floor, the transporter dangling over a pit of swirling sand by the remaining bit of floor that still remained attached to a wall. "Well, looks like we have no choice ..." Sheathing his sword, Minato jumped into the pit, summoning Suzaku seconds before hitting the sand; a solid thud behind him told him that Aigis had decided to follow him, the robot's arms wrapped around his torso. Hamuko seemed to have the same idea behind him, as he caught a flurry of wings that gave way to Pegasus, one of the unique Personae she had access to. Akihiko and Mitsuru seemed to have joined her on the horse, and Junpei and Fuuka had clung onto Hermes for dear life in the descent.

The Personae didn't land until they appeared to find a solid pathway amongst the rapidly moving sand. Waiting for everyone to land, Minato looked around. A myriad of doors seemed to be poking out of the sand, glowing and swirling as they tried to remain above the ground. "Where are we?" the blue-haired teen frowned, drawing the sword again.

"... I heard of this only once growing up." Mitsuru admitted, sighing. "Father called it the 'Desert of Doors', but nobody ever thought it would awaken like this … Or that dragons were inside of it." Frowning, the heiress had her rapier in her hand again. "We should move quickly."

"Yeah." Hamuko agreed, gripping her naginata. Minato could see his twin shaking, but she was still being stubborn about tailing along with them. She had been like this when they had first entered SEES to boot … Shaking his head to chase the thoughts away, Minato began to race down the walkway, the rest of SEES right behind him.

Reaching the end of the pathway, the group froze; before them stood a doorway made of wrought iron, the large double doors that the frame housed flung wide open. Dragons were carved into the surface, and a blinding blue light shone from within the wide open door, swirling about as if to form a galaxy. Standing in front of the door, however …

"Mr. Chairman!" Minato called out, racing towards the brunet male. "What the hell is going on!?" Ikutsuki seemed to blink at that, but he didn't turn around to face the group as they neared him. "Mr. Chairman!" Minato reached out to grab his shoulder, only to stop at the soft chuckle the man let out.

"Ah, Minato-kun, everyone." Ikutsuki's voice held a sinister tone all of a sudden, and he slowly turned to face the group. "I was wondering if you all would make it down here, let alone survive the city. Dragons are truly impressive creatures, aren't they?" Chuckling, the man crossed his arms over his chest, something in his gaze starting to feel plain wrong. "Such chaos and destruction, raw power in an elegant form … the Shadows were taking too long; perhaps these elegant beasts will call forth the Mother Night faster."

"The Mother Night?" Junpei seemed to tense, tightening the grip on his bastard sword. "Th' hell is that, and why do you want her to show up?"

"Simple; this world isn't worth fighting for." Ikutsuki gave a shrug. "Pain and despair run rampant, and humanity longs for death. The Mother Night will come and usher in a world of stillness and silence, where humanity sleeps for eternity in a paradise of dreams. Of course, if that's assuming any are left … those Dragons seemed ravenous."

"So you'd rather just watch the world burn!?" Mitsuru shouted back, voice getting tight with rage. "What sort of madness are you speaking of! I don't desire death!"

"Yes, alas, the group of you are quite stubborn about it." Ikutsuki gave a sigh before flashing them a smirk. "That's why I'm going to have to dispose of you. Promptly."

At his words, Minato felt something shoving him forward. Crying out, he caught his balance in time to avoid toppling straight into the open doorway. Turning around, the blue-haired teen paled; a new dragon had crept up behind them, gold eyes staring at the group with a hiss as it spread its large wings. Scales that rippled between black and red covered it's form, and the hissing sound made the rest of SEES turn in shock to stare at it; it was easily four times anyone's height, flames dripping from its jaws. Ikutsuki moved from in front of the door, moving to stand beside the dragon with a cruel smile on his face.

"Au revoir."

Letting out a screech, the dragon flapped its wings, the gust too much for most of SEES to withstand at point blank range. The only one not blown off of their feet was Aigis, who open fired on the beast's face. White the bullets bounced off of the scales, a few of the shots made it into the eyes, appearing to blind the beast. A pained screech that shook the ground followed a few seconds later, and it lashed out with its long tail, scoring a direct hit and sending Aigis flying towards the group as well.

The gales of wind produced from those large wings were too powerful, and the next thing Minato was aware of was being flung through the doorway into the massive, open space of blue. Panicking, he spun around, trying to grab onto someone's hand. The only one close enough for him to do so was Hamuko, who looked about ready to cry in fear. "A-aniki! What's- how did this …?!"

"I don't know Hamuko, I don't know!" Twisting as much as he could, Minato gripped onto her hand with both of his, letting go of the now useless sword. He could faintly see Junpei's hat fly off in the corner of his eye, but for now, he was trying to focus on keeping his sister calm. "Just don't let go of my hand!"

Hamuko nodded at him, gripping onto him for dear life, her naginata discarded as well. Glancing around showed the rest of S.E.E.S trying to either stop their fall, or at least try to cling to one another for safety. The efforts were failing, as a strong vortex was starting to grab onto them now, pulling them downwards through time and space as they headed for a green light.

"ANIKI!" Hamuko's frightened scream made Minato jolt back to her, only to realize the wind picking up again meant he was slowly losing his grip on his twin sister. Panicking again, he desperately tried to keep their hands linked, but the gale that was pulling on them was too strong. He was even beginning to lose consciousness. "Aniki, I – i'm …!" Hamuko's face was tear-streaked now, one of her hands slipping out of his grip.

"Hamuko!" crying out, Minato tried in vain to grab her hand again, only to watch in terror as he lost grip of her second hand as well. Not even getting a chance to grab onto her hands again, the blue-haired teen could only watch in horror as she was pulled away, out of his eyesight as the wind picked up even more. "Hamuko!" His words were lost to the wind, slowly blacking out as the green light grew closer and closer. The last thing he could recall seeing was a brilliant blue sky, the midday sun over head, before consciousness left him.

(Start of the Dark Hour, Downtown Iwatodai.)
Shinjiro sighed as he watched the sky overhead change from deep indigo to a sickly color, the almost full moon an ominous golden color. In his pocket, he could hear the watch Hamuko had found for him earlier in the day still ticking away; Mitsuru had modified it for him as a gift when he first joined SEES, to better help the three of them keep track of time in the Dark Hour. '… I guess I should have left it with the rest of my gear.' He thought bitterly to himself, hearing footprints walking towards him. Although he knew very well who it was, the brunet male didn't turn to face the newcomer. "If you're looking for Koro, he's off talking to his old owner. He won't be back for a while."

"Good." The youthful voice made Shinjiro sigh internally, turning to look. Amada Ken stood there, the younger boy having somehow managed to conceal his lance on the walk through town, an impressive feat when one realized his weapon was taller than he was. Hazel eyes bored into pale grey, the young boy speaking up. "So … you really did want to settle things early."

Shinjiro broke the eye contact, staring up at the moon with a bitter smile. "Yeah; we'd be noticed if we weren't present for the full moon mission." He pointed out, pulling the beanie he normally wore off of his head. Turning to face Ken again, he watched as the young boy gave a nod.

"True …" Drawing a breath, Ken gave him an accusing look. "So … you really don't deny anything that happened that night?" The young boy watched as Shinjiro seemed to hesitate for a moment before slowly shaking his head. Ken sighed in response. "You really did do it then. For a moment there, I hoped I was wrong."


"... I see how happy you make Hamuko-san." Ken looked away as he spoke, bitterness lacing his voice. "I … I don't want to see her unhappy, but your crimes outweigh the happiness you give her." Turning back around to face Shinjiro, the child's eyes narrowed in a sharp glare, and the lance was leveled to point at Shinjiro's chest; now the boy's choice of weapon made perfect sense. "You're guilty, and nothing you say will change that!"

"... Not even an apology, huh." Shinjiro's words carried a broken laugh beneath them, the fight leaving the brunet teen. "Heh … course not … I'm such a fuckin idiot ..." Looking up at the sky as he spoke, Shinjiro could feel tears building up behind his eyes; so it really had come to this, huh. He had hoped – in some small way – that he could have talked to Ken, that he could have given his side of the story … Guess Karma wasn't having any of that.

Drawing a deep breath, Shinjiro let his eyes close, head slipping to face the ground as he dropped the beanie. "... Do it quick. And … be prepared to run. I don't want Koro to hate you ..." He kept his eyes shut as he spoke; the moment he looked at Ken, he knew he'd lose it.

"Yes, listen to the dead man, child, get on with it."

Ken's eyes shot wide open at that, and he turned around to the alleyway besides them, Shinjiro following the action. Walking towards them was an impossibly thin man, gold eyes unimpressed as he walked towards them, a large gun in one hand. "I came here expecting to see a glorious execution, not a bunch of standing around and posturing." The newcomer growled, eyes narrowing on the two as he leveled the gun in the taller male's direction, drawing back the safety and hammer. "If you will not put the dying man out of his misery, child, then I shall do you the favor!"

Shinjiro wasn't aware he had ducked to the side until searing pain shot through one of his thighs; he had pushed himself and Ken down to the ground, but had gouged himself on the head of Ken's lance in the process. Swearing, he could hear the frantic barking that told him Koromaru had heard the gunfire, making him stand up as best as he could with the bleeding wound in his leg. "Fuckin hell, Takaya." He growled at the slender man, pale grey eyes flashing. "Th fuck are you doing here!?"

"I came here for the show, Abel, you incompetent!" Takaya shouted back, leveling the gun again. "Pain, chaos, vengeance and blood spilled on the pavement! Not cowardice and posturing! If you two aren't going to do battle, then I shall kill you both for the shame of it all!"

Ken's brain was too busy trying to process what was going on, but at the edge of his hearing, he thought he could hear a roar in the distance. It was pushed aside as his brain tried to process the name Takaya had used to address Shinjiro; Abel. What on Earth did he …? His thoughts were cut off as Koromaru darted out of nowhere, racing to the boy that laid on the concrete, barking and whimpering.

Shinjiro spared them a glance, but kept his attention focused on Takaya as Regenerate started to kick in, healing a bit of the damage done to his leg. "The hell are you raving about?!" He shouted back, body slipping into an attack ready position.

"The two of you aren't living for the moment!" The paler male shot back, drawing back the hammer on his gun again. The roar Ken had heard before echoed again, coming closer; Shinjiro lifted his head as he heard it, confused, but focused on Takaya again in a second. "For that, you should die."

"Why the flying fuck do you even CARE?" Shinjiro shot back, ducking beneath the second shot as it was fired. Going to shout at Takaya more, Shinjiro was cut off as the sky around them turned black, and something large landed behind Takaya, knocking over one of the the buildings. Looking up, the brunet male felt himself pale, moving to pick the paralyzed with fear Ken and Koromaru up.

"What's with that face?" Takaya sneered, somehow missing the building collapsing behind him. "You look as though you've seen death itself." Chuckling, he went to fire the gun again, only to blink when he realized the gun was no longer there.

Neither was the rest of his forearm.

Fear had clearly overtaken pain, because he whirled around to see what had snacked on half of his arm while his back was turned. He found himself staring into a bright orange eye set amongst scales so dark red, they appeared back. Flickers of bright red seemed to race between the scales, forming veins beneath the skin that glowed in the dark light. Black and silver fire dripped from between massive jaws, and as Shinjiro backed up with Ken and Koro, the three could see a large, serpentine form where the building had once stood, the only break in black and red being a massive white scar across the front of the creature's chest.

"...W … wha … I – Is that a …?" Ken's voice was tight with fear, and Shinjiro could feel him trembling in his grip. "... is that a dragon?"

"I … I don't know ..." Shinjiro wasn't trying to hide the panic in his voice. As he spoke, he began to sneak into an alley as well, grateful that the dragon was focused on Takaya for now.

As it was, Takaya was sneering, backing away himself. "Hehe … HAHHAHAHAHAHA! How fitting a devil comes up from the Earth itself!" He shouted after a long moment, maniacal laughter undercutting his words. "Cleanse the earth in fire, great beast! End this mortal pla-!"

The end of Takaya's sentence was cut off by a blood-curdling roar that knocked Shinjiro onto his ass in the alley, dropping Ken and the dog as he did so. The smell of sulfur and brimstone wafted through the area, and the only hint Shinjiro had to what was about to happen was the dragon rearing back it's head to strike. Reaching out, he pulled Ken into his chest, blocking the child's view as the great beast's jaws came down with a snap, ripping Takaya's torso from the rest of his body.

Wincing as he heard the crunching noise, Shinjiro stood up again, dragging Ken with him. Making the kid focus on him, he gestured towards the alleyway as the dragon continued to chew on Takaya. "Run." Ken nodded in response, Koromaru at his heels as the two brunets raced off down the narrow alley. The dragon didn't seem to notice them, though, as the roar it let out seemed to be in the distance.

That hope was dashed when a glance over his shoulder told Shinjiro the dragon had spotted them. It was flying after them, the large, tattered wings engulfed in silver and black fire burning the air around them as it gave chase. It didn't seem to be taking the chase seriously; it flew about as slowly as a regular human could walk, and it was still keeping pace a good fifty feet or so behind them.

A warning snarl hit Shinjiro's ears, and he yanked on Ken's arm to pull the boy out of the way as a pillar of black fire struck the spot where he had been seconds before hand. Koromaru leaped through the fire, Cerberus's passive fire block creating a shield of protection around the tiny dog as he started running faster. "Ken, keep running!"

Ken could barely hear Shinjiro over the blood pounding in his ears; the boy could never remember being this scared before in his life. Not even fighting Shadows had scared him this much; he doubted anything would terrify him more than the sight of a large, fire-breathing dragon chasing him as if it had all the time in the world, the pillars of fire it was breathing seeming to herd them into a narrow pathway between another two tall buildings.

The next pillar of fire hit a few feet behind Ken, throwing up the ground and making him trip up with a shout of pain as he hit the concrete. He was aware of his knees and hands being scraped up to hell and back as he rolled, and his left ankle had been twisted by the fall. Shinjiro's shout of his name was almost drowned out by the sound of metal falling, and Ken stared in horror as a collapsing fire escape landed between him and the other male, who looked terrified.

Koromaru darted over to Ken, barking and trying to help the small boy get up again. "K-Koro-chan, don't worry!" Yelping as he tried to get up, Ken shook his head. "Go on and get to safety! You're safe from the fire!" Koromaru shook his head with a whine, barking again and tugging on Ken's hoodie to get the boy to shelter.

The sound of brick and cement cracking above them made Ken pale, looking up. The dragon had landed on one of the buildings, and was now starting to crawl down one of them, orange eyes focusing on Ken as a forked tongue snaked out to taste the air. Koromaru's efforts only increased at that, the small dog doing his best to drag Ken away from the dragon's immense maw. It didn't do too much good, and soon, Ken felt paralysis take him again as the toothy jaws in front of him opened wide, flickering embers at the back of the throat.

A sound like a gunshot echoed in the air in the heartbeat that followed afterwords, and the fire escape that the dragon had knocked over was sent flying into its face with a bang. The momentary distraction made it rear back with a screech, and Ken found himself being scooped up; it took a few seconds for him to realize it was Shinjiro, the teenager now running full tilt with the small child in his arms. Koromaru raced ahead of them, leading the way to the Naganaki Shrine while the dragon was busy getting the twisted pieces of metal off of its face.

Reaching the shrine, Shinjiro vaulted over the donation box, still carrying Ken as he and Koromaru reached the doors to the shrine. Opening them, Shinjiro slipped inside, shutting the door after Koromaru was inside. Setting Ken down on the foot of the jizou statue, the teenager pulled off his peacoat, wrapping it around Ken. "You should be safe in here for the moment." He said, panting. "Get yourself healed, and then you and Koro can take to the sewers. There's a human-sized entrance nearby."

"W-what about you?" Ken gripped onto the teen's arm as he pulled away. "Why did you save me like that?! I was going to kill you, so why …?" Confusion raced through Ken's face the second Shinjiro looked at him again, a whirl of emotions in those pale grey eyes. The child was certain he saw regret, pain, and something he had only seen when Makoto was trying to protect Hamuko flash across Shinjiro's face in those few seconds as the teenager pulled away, only to hug Ken the next second.

"... I promised her I'd keep you safe." He muttered into the small child's hair. "Some fucking good job I've done at that, eh?" Sighing, Shinjiro let go and backed up towards the door. "... Get yourself healed up, and then the two of you get into the underground. I'll buy you time."

"W – wai -!" Ken's call was cut off as Shinjiro went outside, shutting the door behind him before even Koromaru could follow him.

Tying the doors shut from the outside with the shimenawa nearby, Shinjiro leaned against the door and let out a bitter laugh. "... I'm sorry, Ken … I really am, but … you're better off not knowing." He muttered, hearing an angry roar; the dragon had probably gotten the fire escape off of its head by now. "... I wish this wasn't the end, but … Just promise me you'll be safe."

Stepping away from the door, Shinjiro stared as the dragon turned around tongue lashing in the air for a second before lifting into the air and bee lining for the shrine. Drawing a breath as he let the familiar blue and white light kick up around him, Shinjiro gripped his left shoulder. "... Come on, Castor, we have a path to clear." At his words, the black Persona appeared behind him, the spear head that impaled Castor level with Shinjiro's hand. Gripping onto the air near it, Shinjiro felt it solidify into a cold metal, and tugged.

The spearhead came clean of the Persona, forming a useable weapon in the brunet's hand as the black color that covered Castor evaporated, revealing a glowing, blueish-white color beneath, nearly identical to Akihiko's Persona. Leveling the weapon he had drawn from the Persona, Shinjiro focused on the dragon as it flew in closer, eyes sliding shut as a sad smile came across his face.

'Heh … I'm sorry Mom; I knew I said I'd keep Ken safe, but … I'm gonna have to break that promise.' Gripping the weapon tighter in his hand, the brunet male glared as the great beast landed in front of him and Castor, orange eyes burning in fury. 'It's been two years, Mom … I didn't think I'd be seeing you again so soon. But …'

Slipping his body so both hands gripped the spear's haft, Shinjiro began to prepare for the attack. Castor tensed up to charge behind him, the Persona's horse ready to spring at a second's notice as the dragon stalked towards them, a black figure against the scarlet sky.

'It'll be good to see you again. We can look after Ken together.'

With that thought, Shinjiro braced himself as the dragon let out a roar, attacking. Dodging beneath the initial swipe of a paw, Shinjiro cursed and slashed out with the spear, noting the fire that formed around the spearhead. Sparks skittered off of sharp scales, doing no noticeable damage. Cursing, the brunet male rolled beneath the beast, hiding beneath it while Castor punched it in the face. 'Hopefully shit will be easier to stab here …' Focusing on the legs to make sure he wasn't stepped on – he'd be dead for sure if that happened – Shinjiro stabbed at the inside of one of the legs, relieved to find the spear point went through the flesh, causing the dragon above him to screech.

Fearing the feet that reared up around him, Shinjiro rolled out of the way, Castor reappearing above him as the dragon turned and shot a pillar of fire towards the teen. Swearing, he dodged to one side while Castor shot up into the air, eyes widening as he saw the sheer heat of the flames melt the brick beneath them.

'Holy fucking shit; I am SO fucking glad Koro can null fire.' Shaking his head at the thought, Shinjiro got up and watched as Castor charged in for an attack, the horse's horn managing to strike the dragon on the muzzle and earning a screech of pain. Lunging forward, Shinjiro repeated the action with the spear, cursing as the blade bounced off of the scales for a missed hit. The dragon seemed to be getting irritated though, and it spun around to try and hit with its long tail. Ducking beneath it, Shinjiro winced as it totaled part of the play structure. There didn't seem to be any coffins around, so at least it didn't mean anybody else would die here …

with that thought, he blinked in time to see those massive jaws coming down on top of him. Swearing, Shinjiro brought the spear up, jamming it in the roof of the dragon's mouth. That seemed to hurt it, as it let out a pained screech as it shook back and forth, trying to get the weapon out of it's mouth. Shinjiro let go in mid swing, letting Castor grab him as the Persona began to gather energy. Knowing what was going to happen, he ducked, and the glowing Persona charged into the dragon.

While it did seem to do some damage, the dragon was angrier now. The next thing Shinjiro registered was a heavy paw coming down on top of him, pinning him against the concrete and snapping his concentration. Yelling in pain as his head cracked the pavement, he could hear the sound of an explosion as the spear he was using broke , Castor vanishing a moment later.

Within seconds, one of those brilliant orange eyes was on him, rage burning in the depths as trickles of blood seeped from the wound in it's upper mouth. Fear took Shinjiro over for a moment as the dragon opened its jaws, the rank of sulfur nearly knocking him out then and there. Acceptance flooded over him a moment later, and he closed his eyes.

'Ken, be safe …'

The smell of sulfur went away, as did the heat, but he wasn't fooled. It was doing the kill strike above him, so hopefully it would be over soon. A small part of him wondered if he would be cooked alive, or if he'd just be ripped apart like Takaya had been. Every instinct in him was screaming to run, but he forced himself to try and remain calm. If this was the end, well … No use crying over it.

His eyes flew open when the sound of an explosion rang out above him, and the dragon let out an irate roar. The pressure of the paw weighing him down was lifted seconds later, and it took him a few seconds to register what he was seeing. A pixie was floating between him and the dragon, which was stumbling back and fanning its wings as it shook its head, as if trying to clear its vision. The small pixie let out a 'hmph' before dropping a blast of silver and violet light on top of the dragon, which went off with a loud crash.

Another furious noise left the dragon's throat, and it took to the air a second later, flying off. The flames that engulfed its wings were visible for several miles, and Shinjiro only pushed himself upright when he was certain he couldn't see it anymore. The pixie flew over to him when she saw him starting to get up, a brilliant green light washing over him.

"Ah, thank goodness! I was almost too late!" The man's voice made Shinjiro jolt, pushing himself onto his knees as he looked towards the stairs. A young man in blue and black was racing towards him, a large book held in one arm. The Pixie vanished at his arrival, and the young man headed towards him. "It would have been horrible if I had let you get eaten; Lady Hamuko would have been heartbroken."

"... Who are you?" Shinjiro asked, letting the strange man – whose gold eyes held none of the malice that Takaya's had – pull him onto his feet.

"Ah, do forgive me." The man gave a bow, eyes soft. "My name is Theodore; I assist Lady Hamuko and Master Minato in managing their Personae." Shinjiro arched an eyebrow at that, but decided not to question it. "Are you the only one here still? Master Igor said he could sense three Persona-users awake tonight. If I include you, that would mean there are two others ..."

Shinjiro glanced to the shrine, nodding. "Ken and Koro are in there." He wheezed, rubbing his head. The spell the pixie had used on him had healed a lot of the damage, but it still stung. "Didn't want the dragon getting them."

"How very noble of you." Theodore gave a nod, voice moved. "But perhaps you can let them out now? I have to inform you of the change in circumstances ..."

Not liking how that was said, Shinjiro nodded and opened the shrine door, Koromaru and Ken bolting to him. The younger boy threw his arms around Shinjiro's waist, clinging and apparently sobbing of all things, while Koromaru settled for running around the two for a few moments, barking. Theodore seemed amused. "Don't fret, you two; Aragaki-san here is alright, barring a few scrapes and bruises for being brave enough to stab a dragon in the mouth."

"Is that what that screeching was?" Ken asked after a moment, lifting his head from Shinjiro's side. The younger brunet was still shaking all over, but at least he was able to move and talk.

"Indeed." Nodding, Theodore frowned. "Things have gone terribly, wrong, and Master Igor has asked me to escort you towards the center of this madness."

"Yeah, I kinda figured something was wrong when a dragon showed up and ate a person." Shinjiro groaned, the sarcasm rich in his voice. "Thanks for chasing it off, by the way. I was pretty certain I was gonna be digested there."

"I don't know if it would have been able to eat you through that wound; being stabbed in the roof of the mouth sounds most unpleasant." Chuckling as he cast a spell of transportation, Theodore frowned at the same time. "It seems the one you call the 'Chairman' decided to betray everyone, and unleashed dragons upon the world to create an Eternal Darkness. He had to open up a portal between dimensions to do so, and such is incredibly rare and not something most Persona-users are accustomed to. And to make matters worse, your allies have been banished to a plane far beyond here. My sisters and I shall do our best to contain the damage here while Master Igor speaks with Lord Philemon, but the three of you must go to this new world and regroup with your friends."

"... Well that doesn't sound any less dangerous than dealing with dragons." Was Shinjiro's reply, still tart.

"It really isn't, now is it?" Theodore pondered that for a moment. "A completely new world, one you are unaccustomed to, and you have to gather your friends into one place if you wish to get home, and goodness knows where they've gotten to; that is a daunting task."

Ken shuddered at that, gripping onto Shinjiro more as the transportation spell left them standing besides the open gateway. Ikutsuki and the dragon were gone, just leaving the swirling mass of blue in front of them. "Is that … the portal?"

"Yes, indeed it is." Theodore nodded. "I don't remember what Master Igor called it, but it is quite imposing ..." Glancing around, the gold-eyed male sighed. "And I'd hate to rush you, but there is a chance another dragon might arrive to try and attack you once again. It would be best if you made haste through the portal."

Koromaru let out a whine, sticking close to Shinjiro and Ken as his ears dropped. Ken picked him up and gave him a hug before looking at Shinjiro, who met his eyes; worry and fear filled the younger, and Shinjiro gave his shoulder a squeeze on pure instinct. "... We really don't have much of a choice, Ken … I'm scared too." He admitted, sighing. "Hell, I was scared when that dragon tried to eat you, but … Imagine how scared the others must be."

"Y-yeah … we really should save them." Shuddering, Ken looked at Theo as he pulled Shinjiro's coat tighter around himself. "Do we just step through the gate?"

"Precisely." Theodore gave a nod, then frowned as the sound of roaring came from above. "And do hurry; company is arriving once again, and I believe my sisters are taking care of other parts in the city. Go on through, and I'll take care of these 'guests'." Not liking the cold tone that Theodore took on when he said the last word, Shinjiro nodded and pulled Ken up into his arms before stepping through, the feeling of vertigo from entering the blue matter knocking him senseless for a few seconds.

Ken yelped, as did Koro, and Shinjiro swore as he lost his grip on them. While he didn't bother to try and grab them again, he watched out of the corner of his eyes, making sure he could see them as the light around them turned into a brilliant white color, cutting the other two from his line of sight.

And then he felt the ground beneath before unconsciousness stole over his mind.

'Well, this was a good way to start on the whole 'rescuing everyone' deal.' He thought before blacking out. 'A drowned cat could do better than me.'

Tori's Notes: Would you believe me if I said I've had this idea floating around for quite a while now? (at least a year, by my reckoning.) Finally got enough of the plot holes ironed out to go ahead with it, so here. Have the start of a Persona/Fire Emblem 7 crossover that's going to be one hell of a crazy ride. I'll explain more about the deal with Castor's spear weapon deal the next time we cut back to Shinjiro.

And keep your eyes on the dragon Theo chased off; he'll be back ...