D A T E
April 8th 2018
L O C A T I O N
T A G S
"I'm heading out, sweetie! Make sure you get to bed early!"
"I always do! Have a good night!"
The nightly reminder never made much sense to Noriaki. He had been getting to bed just fine without the nagging for as long as he could remember, with or without his mother there. More often than not without—something their recent move to Kyoto did not appear to be changing. Maybe she was just nervous. God knew he had given her plenty of reason to worry the last couple of months. Still, it wasn't like he particularly minded independence. Preferred it, even, as most teenagers did. He had the house to himself every evening, and could do whatever he wanted so long as he didn't leave a mess in the morning.
It was just a question of what he wanted to do.
"... This is bullshit."
The teen muttered to himself as he finished tidying up the last of dinner, carefully stacking them in the cabinets so as to not cluster the freshly organized tableware. What the hell was there to do? It wasn't like he had any friends anymore, in this city or the last one. The house was nice but... old, and unfamiliar. Even with the luxury of his own bedroom, he couldn't shake the unease that came with an uncertain start. Maybe a run would help clear his head. Spring seemed nice and cool this far north, and just because he didn't have a team anymore didn't mean he could let himself go out of shape. Tossing on a hoodie and his sneakers, Noriaki slipped inconspicuously from the Hoshino family abode and into the brisk night air of Kyoto.
Running always felt good. No time for getting up in your head or pitying yourself, just the destination, the road there, and you. It was easy to lose yourself in the act, and lose himself Noriaki did. Every step he made kept the worry at bay, and he sure as hell took a lot of them. By the time he felt good and warmed up he must have lapped the block three or four times. Passed the neighboring townhouses, the little sushi place around the corner, and of course, that burnt out ruin of a house down the street. One he was just about to pass again.
A little blob of white appeared, hopping down from a fence and shaking its fur. The white cat stretched his limbs out quietly, lifting itself up and taking a look around. As soon as Noriaki came into sight, he let out a rather loud meow, presumably excited as it waited for him to approach. After a few seconds, however, the cat’s ears flickered and he looked towards the burnt remains of the house. Without warning, the white cat jetted off, tail aloft as he openly walked in through what remained of the entrance.
Just as he prepared to round the corner for another lap, the only thing in this neighborhood that could bring Noriaki off his runner's high without earning his ire appeared. He had seen the snowy little blob around these past few days. Fed him, even, when his mom wasn't looking. He always liked cats, and hearing the feline call out to him brought the slightest hints of a grin to his otherwise grim features. Just as he slowed down to greet the cat, however, it suddenly made a left and strode into one of the lots.
The lot that just so happened to belong to the ominous remains of what must have been someone's home.
"No, no, c'mon, don't—god dammit," he mustered quietly as he watched the stray disappear into the ruins, "That place gives me the fuckin' creeps."
He might have been new in town, but he had heard the rumors about this neighborhood. The fires, the disappearances. He was thankful for them, in a way. Wouldn't have managed to get such cheap rent if not for the superstitious. He was a little too old to believe ghost stories were true... but that didn't mean he wanted to go poking around to prove himself right.
The smart choice would be to just continue on his run, go get a nice hot shower, and tuck into bed. That house couldn't have been stable, and who knew what would come crashing down if he bumped into the wrong piece of wreckage. Or if a much smaller, much more curious soul decided to do the very same.
"They better not get my ass for trespassing," Noriaki muttered in defeat as he cast a quick look over his shoulder, then hurriedly jogged towards the house to fish out the fluffy intruder.
Fortunately, it looked like the cat had decided not to venture in too deep, settling in what looked like a spare room. Despite the charred remains, it was obvious there wasn’t much in the room even before the fires. It was a decent size, probably meant as a guest room in its past life. The only thing that was a little strange came from the corner. Next to the window was a full length mirror, the glass having survived the fires in spite of its edges showing considerable damage.
The cat chose to sit himself in front of it, a little confused at its reflection. Letting out a hiss, he batted at the glass. Surprisingly it was sturdy and there was no fear of it falling over. Bounding around the room, the white cat sat down as it stared intently, as if challenging its reflection.
To say Noriaki was unimpessed by this display was an understatement. The little furball had come in here to play with a mirror? There were plenty of shiny objects to paw at all over the neighborhood. Ones a hell of a lot safer, at that.
"C'mon, little guy. You can't just play around like this. You're gonna get soot in your fur," he cooed softly as he approached the animal to scoop it up, "I got some canned fish back at the house, let's go."
The cat’s ears twitched, the cat looking back at the familiar voice. After one quick look back at the mirror, it let out a mewl of acknowledgement, albeit he seemed happy to see Noriaki. Once the guy was close enough, the cat suddenly looked back at the mirror, letting out an audible hiss. An ominous red glow appeared, bathing the room entirely as the mirror shined. As quickly as it happened, however, the light stopped--the mirror lost its shine and instead was completely covered in black, as if soot had stuck to the surface. The cat let out a yowl as a hand reached out from within the mirror, moving slowly at first before shooting out past the animal and grabbing Noriaki’s ankle.
A conglomerate of voices came all at once, filling his head before the hand jerked backwards, pulling him towards the mirror.
The sudden flash of red caught Noriaki by surprise, causing the already jumpy teen to shoot up like a rocket. It was all just in time to see the mirror's reflection—which should have just been him and his feline friend—turn black as pitch.
"Oh, son of a—"
Before he could finish his thought, something dark and fast came shooting out and coiled around his ankle. It pulled him, hard, towards the once lustrous surface of the mirror. He fought against it as well he could with only one leg to stand on, but all the same he found himself skidding along the ash covered floor. Only by grabbing hold of the mirror's blackened frame did he stop himself from being sucked in entirely, though most of his right side had already disappeared.
"I knew it! I fuckin' knew it!" He managed to profane in the last few seconds before a sudden 'crack' filled the air. The length of wood he had managed to grab hold of had snapped from the strain, and without it, he was gone.
There was nothing but darkness as Noriaki was swallowed up, albeit no harm would come to him. Instead, when he would open his eyes, he would see the same red light from before, barely illuminating the room. There were no windows along the bare walls, and with the exception of one doorway, there was no way out. A curtain acted as a barrier between this room and the next; however, the sounds of a struggle could easily be heard, with a monstrous roar capping it off.
As soon as the dim red hit his eyes, Noriaki was up on his feet. His blue hues darted to and fro, taking in his surroundings as best he could in the situation he was in. It couldn't have been real. It didn't feel real. No matter how weirdly familiar it seemed. But real or not, he was there regardless. He had to think of a course of action. Not that he had much time to think, of course. The rustling interrupted any of that, along with the monstrous noises up ahead. It seemed like he didn't have much of a choice.
"Yeah, yeah, assholes. I've seen the movies. I know how this goes," he cursed, as if to steel his resolve.
Clutching the piece of badly burned wood that he dragged along with him, he breathed long and slow, then resolutely marched towards the curtain; if he was going down, it wasn't going to be without a fight.
The curtain pulled itself back on its own, revealing the scene before Noriaki. Unlike the previous room, this one was revealed to be a huge, open space. Along the walls at a great distance seemed to be what looked like silhouettes watching the center of the room, a myriad of hushed voices heard between the clash of metal on metal. A great, blue flame burst forth from the center, though once it died down, he was given a view of the two opponents fighting one another.
On the far end was an armor-clad creature with a pair of horns and snow white hair that burst into violet flames on occasion. Its red eye stare was unfocused, an expression of amusement written all over its face. Wielding a uniquely shaped sword in its right hand, it slowly raised it towards their opponent: it was a challenge.
Said opponent looked like they were on their last legs. A teenage girl with long, blonde hair held her left arm, blood freely flowing down and over a fist gripping a sword. Her attire was just as weird, looking like something straight out of a fantasy video game. Despite her injuries, she was determined, forcing herself to stand tall as she let out a long exhale.
A blue light descended in front of her, taking the form of a card as she raised her sword. “Come, Skuld!” She called out as she sliced the card in half, a wind whipping her hair around as a bright blue flash surrounded her. A golden creature with a woman’s torso appeared, and together, the two lunged forward. Both clashed with the demon, the ground beneath them cracking. Unfortunately, the demon didn’t look impressed, sending the girl back with a move of her sword.
As the girl skidded to a halt, she curled up into a ball as she held her arm, letting go of her sword. The floating creature hesitated, though as it was stabbed through the chest, the girl let out a cry of pain. “No, Skuld--NO!” She yelled, letting out a harrowing scream as the creature lost its blue glow.
It is inevitable.
The demon spoke directly into both of their heads, walking over to the girl as the golden creature disappeared. Bending down, it easily picked her girl up by her neck, holding her up. The girl’s hands tried to pry the demon’s off as she struggled to breathe.
Your corruption was destined.
As if privy to some kind of macabre stage show, Noriaki stared on as the beings on central stage clashed. It was like he was watching some high-budget tokusatsu flick, with all the cheesy costumes and dramatics that implied. Of course, in those movies, the heroes didn't tend to be bloodied and battered so quickly. In fact, aside from one big, dramatic clash, this didn't look like much of a fight at all. The girl—the hero, if you could call her that—screamed in agony as her opponent impaled whatever the hell she had spawned from thin air at the start of the fight, and it was over.
He could practically hear the smugness in its voice, a voice that boomed loud in his head despite the distance. He watched it stride confidently over to the girl who had been opposing it on his arrival, watched it reach down and heft her up like nothing. It gloated again, like some kind of school yard bully, and left him to listen to the girl's desperate gasps as it held her up like some kind of trophy.
Inevitability. Destiny. You would always have ended up like this.
He couldn't exactly recall when his legs had started him moving towards the duo. This was usually the outcome when he got angry—his mind went blank, and he acted, and then something bad happened. It was always like that. Back in Osaka. Back in the locker room. He didn't even know this girl. Didn't know the demon, either. But something about the way the horned creature spoke just pissed him right off, and by the time he realized what it was he was about to do, he had already wound up.
A loud crack followed his howl. One that originated once again from the wood in his hand. Or, rather, what remained of the wood in his hand, after he swung it into the demon's back hard enough to render it splintered and broken.
The only sound heard was the broken off pieces of wood falling to the floor. The demon slowly turned its head towards him, surprised. Either it didn’t expect an attack, or it didn’t even realize Noriaki was there. Its red eyes glowed as a smile spread on its face, dropping the girl on the floor as it gave him its complete attention.
Its words were the only warning Noriaki had as its hair was set on fire, gripping its sword as it walked up to him. Behind the pair, the girl gasped for air, eyes widening at the sight of the boy as if he was something she hadn’t seen before. But surprise turned to concern as she shook her head at him.
“D-Don’t--” She clutched her throat, struggling to speak. “Run--Run! Run away!”
To say his plan had worked was inaccurate. It would imply Noriaki had a plan when he charged into this fight that was certainly not his own. The remnants of his makeshift bludgeon clattered to the ground to join its other half as the demon turned upon him, all fire and brimstone. Focused so thoroughly on the threat before him, he didn't even register the hoarse yelling of the girl he had just rescued. All he could do was backpedal from the demon in the face of whatever supernatural might it intended to inflict upon him.
This is what always happens, isn't it?
Another voice purred in the back of his mind, haughty and regal. It was equal parts infuriating and recognizable.
All hot-blood and bluster, rushing in without a thought in your thick little skull. Never caring about the consequences.
The last thing he needed now was someone taunting him inside his head. He needed to think of a way out of this. He just needed...
Well, until now. What are you going to do? Run away with your tail between your legs? Beg for another second chance? You aren't going to get one this time. She's going to kill you for your impudence, you know.
Like he needed that pointed out! Watching those flames roaring from behind the demon's head, the edge of her sword... This definitely felt real. Too real! This wasn't what he signed up for when he went to go rescue a cat. This was bullshit!
There's that defiant attitude of yours. This is the fate you deserve, yet you don't want to sit down and accept it. You've always hated facing the repurcussions of your actions, haven't you?
He found himself gritting his teeth as the voice droned on and on, condescending to him as if he didn't already know how he was. How he always acted. But what else was there? Lying down? Letting it happen? Letting people—letting things—like this get away with it? If that was the alternative, then fuck that! He'd be the defiant one every time, consequences be damned.
I suppose your resolve is admirable enough, though. It reminds me of, well, me. As it should.
If it wasn't for the impending doom approaching him, he'd have snapped at that pompous voice ages ago. But he needed to focus! Find a way to beat this thing, or at least hurt it enough to get away.
Tarnished by thy hubris, now is thy hour of rebirth.
Heed my words, fiend.
I am thou, thou art I.
Thou who strains against the chains of fate.
Be reborn from thy self-made prison.
Call upon thy indignation, and rebel again this unjust providence!
The voice, maddening as it was, seemed to solidify his resolve the longer it spoke. His backwards retreat across the impromptu arena slowed to a stop, and through his peripheral vision he spotted something: salvation, in the form of a vibrant blue butterfly fluttering between himself and his would-be assailant. It almost seemed to beckon to him, daring him to reach out and seize it. To seize his destiny from the jaws of his inglorious defeat.
His arm snapped forward to grasp it. Yet in place of its luminous wings there was but a simple card, emblazoned with satanic symbology. As he held it before his eyes, the familiarity of it seemed to click for him. He had definitely seen it before... In that dream. The dream! As if recognition had breathed form into it, he felt the weight of a key in his other hand. Yet it only held this form long enough for him to briefly gaze upon it, before cerulean wisps saw it take the form of a humble match.
Burn away thy weakness, and rise as if morning.
Without thought, he brought his hands together, and struck the match against the mysterious card. As if fueled by the heat of his earlier fury, the resulting spark blossomed into an azure conflagration. One which quickly engulfed him in its brilliance. Within the heart of the inferno, he found himself changing.
Gone were his previous blue eyes. They now glowed a lustrous shade of violet, slitted and inhuman in their nature. As were the horns that seemed to have sprouted from his forehead and curled towards the air above. His sweat damp hoodie was gone as well, replaced with layers of black and purple leather that wrapped him from shoulder to waist, where another devilish appendage seemed to have appeared—a pointed, whip like tail flicked back and forth as the flames flickered away from his newly made form.
As if seeking to compensate for his now demonic appearance, the flames coalesced to his aft as they burned away from his body. Where there had been nothing now rapidly formed something; feathery wings fanned out in all directions, their source being the cherubic, angel-like figure who now hovered behind him. The fire was little more than wisps once the deed was done, but their warmth only emboldened the teen, who thrust a defiant hand towards the creature before him. In lieu of the tarot card which had one been in his grip now lay a long, wickedly spiked club, its tip pointed towards her face.
"Guess you're gonna find out just how bold I can be, bitch." he said, his now lengthy canines flashing with the declaration.
The arrival of Noriaki’s power had resulted in the demon coming to an understanding, narrowing its red eyes as it observed the angel behind him. After a few seconds, a decision was made as it raised its blade, getting into a stance.
The Devil. I see, so you have also made a contract. No matter, I will take that Persona as well.
Narrowing its eyes, it charged forward at a speed imperceptible to the eye--but Noriaki himself wasn’t what it was after. Instead, it plunged its blade into the angel’s chest, a red glow engulfing its body. To it’s surprise, however, the angel placed his hand on the sword, a crack heard as it squeezed down. The demon moved backwards, but it was obvious the angel wouldn’t allow it, a smile on its face as it crushed the sword effortlessly.
At that point, the demon let out an audible gasp, immediately backing away. It opened its mouth to speak, but a sword plunged through its head stopped it. The girl had forced herself to her feet, gripping the blade as tightly as her hands could muster. With the demon at her mercy, she twisted the sword, beheading it cleanly.
Kicking its body off the stage, she dropped her sword, ignoring it in favor of grabbing Noriaki’s hand. “Hurry--before it gets up,” She rasped, pulling him along without waiting for a protest.
There were a hundred questions swirling around maelstrom like in Noriaki's mind as he watched the creature's body slump down before him. Not least of which how the little kid behind him had managed to shatter its sword like a hunk of driftwood, or how a teenage girl managed to cleanly pop off a monster's head after being choked near to death moments earlier. That same girl seemed to have different concerns. Concerns that—as he watched the blood pool from the demon's body in tandem with the promise of its return—seemed quite relevant.
"Y'know what? Fuck it, let's go."
Nodding, the girl pulled him along as they left the room. She led him through a hallway where the red light returned, though she didn’t seem to be fazed by it. Rather, she looked like she was searching for something. Still, she didn’t stop until she decided they were far away enough, promptly placing her hands on her knees as she took a second to catch her breath. Taking a second to look him up and down, she took in a deep breath before straightening up.
“Thank you. I thought I was going to die back there,” She admitted, her voice strained as she rubbed her left temple. “You’d think cutting its head off would be the end of it, but that thing will be back up on its feet soon enough. That always happens...I think I’ve killed it hundreds of times, but it just keeps coming back.”
Letting her hand drop, her blue eyes looked him over. “I didn’t know there were other Persona users,” She stated, frowning. “I...don’t suppose Emi sent you?”
"I'm gonna level with you—I have no idea what is going on, who that is, or where we are. I got here like five days ago." Noriaki replied with alarming clarity, considering the amount of adrenaline pumping through his body. Might have been that the adrenaline was the cause of the clarity.
"I'm here to get that damn cat and go home. Unless you happen to have a ball of white fluff on you, I'm thinkin' you ought to point me to the exit."
“Exit…?” She slowly spoke, though a realization hit her like a truck as she smacked her forehead. “If you’re here, then that means there’s an exit! Then--” She stopped mid-sentence, letting out a sharp gasp as she covered her left eye.
“Y-Yeah. Uh, no cats here, only Shadows and that demon,” She replied quietly, rummaging through her pockets as she pulled out a tiny crystal. It glimmered softly, and she let out a hollow laugh. “Don’t worry, I’ll get you home.”
Tossing the crystal onto the ground, it erupted and formed a straight line, flowing quietly. Beckoning Noriaki to go along, the two of them followed the line into a room much like the one he had first arrived in. It was entirely empty with the exception of a grand, ornate mirror.
Letting out a sigh of relief, she cautiously approached it, touching the glass. “Months of nothing, and now one decides to show up,” She muttered to herself, shaking her head. Turning back to Noriaki, she paused for a second as she winced again. “This will take you back to where you came from. Be careful, if you have the power to summon a Persona, it means any mirror can bring you back here so long as you can fit through it. Don’t want to accidentally fall through or something, right?”
Letting out another sigh, she turned back, placing her hands on her hips. Still, she felt like she couldn’t let it finish just like that, looking back at him with a brilliant smile. “Wish me luck!”
There it was again. That inkling to get involved and ask questions. If there was one lesson Noriaki could take from this night, it was that getting involved with this and not trusting his initial instinct was a very bad idea. So rather than remain behind and ask the busty, demon-decapitating girl what in the hell was going on, he decided on a very rare course of action indeed; shutting the fuck up and getting out of there.
"Yep. No mirrors. Got it." he piped, walking towards the aforementioned mirror with his club on his shoulder.
"I'd say see you around but, uh, really don't wanna do this again. So... Don't die? Yeah, that works."
With that, he turned and stepped through. Reality rushed to meet him.