Even as she threw her body this way and that in order to keep herself out of the shadow arm’s reach, Yori took a moment to throw a glare in Mira’s direction after the latter’s cheeky reply. A choice she visibly regretted a second later when her frown drew into a grimace as she did her best limbo impression to avoid a swipe toward her face, the arm having caught up in the small amount of time she lost focus on it.
Thankfully, she didn’t need to keep up her evasive maneuvers for much longer after that, with Daigo’s efforts drawing all the rogue hands back to their owner to keep the orange-haired student from pulling it out of the well. A sigh of relief released itself as Yori took a few moments to catch her breath, but those few moments were all she was able to get as the well suddenly erupted with black goo. To make matters worse, the cat woman seemed to have been caught, drastically lowering their fighting force, and the hands seemed to have multiplied from within the inky putty.
Yori heard Daigo’s call to regroup, there wasn’t much she could do on that front. Her earlier choice to split from the group came to bite her as she found herself on the other side of the shadow, close enough to still see her classmates but far enough that running over to meet with them would end with her being in the same situation as Mira. Several of the hands, now that there were more of them to spare, turned in her direction, and Yori knew that there was no way she was going to be capable of avoiding them if she had trouble with only one.
As they approached, Yori couldn’t help but wonder where she went wrong. Was it when she ran from the others? When she grabbed Daigo’s leg in the gymnasium? Did she step on a crack in the road somewhere that somehow led her to this situation after a culmination of bad luck? Taking in a breath to relieve at least some of her fatigue, she prepared herself to run as fast she ever had-
Are you simply going to allow this to happen?
Her head began to throb with pain, a calm yet firm voice echoing within her mind as her eyes screwed shut and her hands flew up to her temples in a vain attempt to somehow dampen her unprompted suffering. What was… happening?
Restricted by the weight of responsibility, yet apathetic to your own wearisome burden, the lonesome path of stifled desires and forgotten dreams leads to naught but self-destruction. To walk alone is not a sign of strength. It is merely a circumstance brought about by your fragile pride. Unable to speak out for yourself, yet unwilling to stand by for the sake of others. To both those who stand in opposition and those who you mean to shield, the you who hides behind a veil of duty is nothing more than a ruinous storm.
Forced to breathe through gritted teeth, Yori pushed back the vertigo that threatened to consume her as best as she could, one of her hands falling down to her knee to steady herself while the disembodied voice continued to speak to her. Though she hated what little she could understand from the voice’s speech, the green-haired student paid attention to the words it spoke in an attempt to distract herself from the pain.
But even a storm is welcome during a drought. Whilst it first rampages without restraint, the rainbow left in its passing promises growth where there was once destruction. The other-self who dwells within you cries out a song of freedom, seeking for both the fury of lightning and the solace of unfettered rain. Will you cling to the stillness of your preconceived notions; or will you embrace the downpour and step forward into the typhoon, leaving every place you rampage brighter than you found it?
From beneath her eyelids, she could see a source of blue light suddenly flash in front of her. It pained her to do so, but Yori slowly forced open her eyes enough to see what had caused it: a familiar butterfly. This would be the fourth one she’d seen, and every single one has been a force of change. The first two, causing the students to be pulled into this otherworldly realm, and the third, somehow connected to Daigo’s persona.
Instinctively, she understood what it meant for the butterfly to appear, but she hesitated. This whole supernatural business, the persona, the shadows, Mira, everything, was something she still couldn’t believe. Despite being a participant, watching impossible things happen one after another, even running with her very life at stake, there was a barrier that kept her from grabbing the butterfly at first. A simple, selfish wish to pretend that she wasn’t involved, that she could stay normal and just let everyone else deal with it.
But her thoughts drifted toward a trio of smiling faces, looking up at her from below, and the moment passed. As if she’d never been in pain at all, she reached out and firmly grasped the butterfly mid-air, narrowed eyes set with resolution.
Is that the sound of thunder I hear? Wonderful. Allow us to form a contract.
I am thou, thou art I.
Release the storm brewing from within thyself.
Thou who threads the boundary between austerity and prudence,
smite the wicked who refuse to acknowledge such distinction!
Yori’s hand opened to reveal a key, a match, familiar yet unnatural regardless. Similarly unnatural was the card that just so happened to appear nearby depicting an angel with a pair of cups, blue and red. Around this time, the hovering hands decided to act as if waiting for Yori to recover from her ‘episode’, darting forth to grab at their stationary target.
Allowing herself to act on instinct rather than thinking too deeply about what she was doing, she struck her match across the outside of her sleeve, the otherworldly azure fire produced not as hot as she expected it to be. With the tarot card now by her foot, she let the match drop from her hand and onto the card, a phrase and a name rising to her lips as the card caught aflame. “Ride the lightning, Raijuu.”
The flame rose to a conflagration around her, larger than she was tall as it momentarily repelled the hands from coming closer. But just as soon as it raged forth, the flame was blown away by a large creature that appeared from within it, a loud whiny heralding its arrival. With golden rings encircling various areas of its silver-colored form, the horse-like beast known as Raijuu shook its head to readjust to its new surroundings, its three horns crackling with energy just above the person riding atop it.
The rider herself was garbed in an attire that resembled her steed in both colors and make, the long sleeveless coat flowing around her like the beast’s mane, and her head adorned with a crown that mirrored Raijuu’s central horn. The three golden bands on either of her arms made a light clinking sound as she moved, specifically to grab the edges of her coat and pull them in to hide the skin showing underneath, her eyes narrowed for an entirely different reason other than the enemy in front of her as she mumbled her misgivings under her breath. “Couldn’t I’ve gotten something less breezy to wear from this ‘Awakening’ thing?”
Just as the arms began to recover, encroaching on Yori and her newly revealed persona, a beam of light drew both sides’ attention as Daigo’s persona fired upon the black goo in an attempt to free his fellow Awakened. Seeing her chance, Yori directed Raijuu around the shadow arms, the unnatural appendages unable to keep pace with the dragon-horse as it rode off toward the students. Dealing with the arms wasn't going to change anything. If the main body went down, the arms should stop being a problem too. Hopefully.
With her free hand, the other keeping her coat closed up as best it could, she pointed her palm toward the main body of the large shadow. A word rolled across her tongue like it was natural, its meaning both familiar and new to her as the air began to crackle around herself and her mount. “Zio!”
From the endless ceiling above the shadow monster, bolts of lightning arced down at incredible speeds, the air quickly filling with the smell of ozone as the electric attack supported Khepri’s sunbeam. Yori belatedly realized she might’ve hit Mira with her attack, but after taking a glance at where Daigo had aimed his own attack, she just assumed the cat woman probably wasn’t getting out of there unscathed regardless.