Naoto's eyes narrow as she stares down the 'leader', standing several meters away, hands resting on the hilt of his shinai. Izanagi is barely visible as a dark, familiar shape behind him; not fully materialized, but ready to spring into action at any time.

There is a word for people who bring a knife to a gun fight. They're called 'corpses'.

But the rules are different here. To the gods of ancient Japan, a bullet, a tiny piece of metal, no matter how fast it moves, is a nuisance at best - and a blade in their hands can split a mountain.

Nevertheless, Naoto exchanges her revolver for a paintball gun for training purposes. It puts her at an even greater disadvantage, reduces the muzzle velocity, and it matters here - but that only makes the victory taste so much sweeter when she wins.

And she intends to win. No matter the odds, no matter the opponent.

"Ready?" he asks, without moving.

"Whenever you are." Yamato-Takeru hovers above her shoulder, still and silent.

He waits, but it would be foolish for her to close the distance. He'll have to come to her.

Unless she can stop him before that.

The paintball gun doesn't have the satisfying bang or recoil of a revolver, but it does its job regardless. A single 'bullet' sails through the air.

Souji's wooden sword whips up and down again, shatters the little sphere with unerring accuracy and sends blue paint flying.

The paint is still falling, scattered droplets floating in the air as he launches himself towards her; Izanagi follows, brightening and solidifying mid-stride, spear at the ready.

She squeezes off two more shots before the paint from the first spatters on the floor, aimed at his legs. Souji twists his body and lunges forwards, passing between them with ease. She would have been more surprised if they did hit him, but the shots had their intended effect - he sped up, and it won't be as easy to dodge the next time.

Still, he is approaching quickly. She retreats a bit as she pulls the trigger again - once, twice, this time at his chest and head, and just as expected, he does not dodge. Instead, he issues a silent command and Izanagi speeds forwards at his side and catches the 'bullets' - the paintballs - and crushes them in a massive fist.

Even were they proper lead slugs, the persona would have no problem intercepting them, but that was not her intention either. Rather, it is the brief delay caused by that extra, unplanned movement she is after, to force a split second's dissonance between Souji's movements and the persona's.

If Souji sees through her intentions, he does not show it. Another two steps and the sword descends, drawing a hiss from the air in its passing. It's only bamboo, but the impact would hurt.

Would hurt, but it's not going to hit. He aims for her right shoulder - a somewhat predictable move, and Yamato's blade cuts the descending arc short with a sharp noise, a resounding blow that must send a painfully numbing impact through Souji's hands and arms. She is safe from the first strike, but the second comes faster than anticipated, and low, and she has no choice but to vault backwards, pulling her legs out of his reach. Left hand, floor; thrust, land on her feet again, crouching.

He is only a heartbeat behind her. The wooden sword whistles as it descends once more, but she is already moving, the rubber soles of her shoes gripping the floor firmly. The spear is closing as well, and Yamato's sword is rising to meet it, but they are both so far off that they're entirely irrelevant by now. It will all be decided before those two weapons meet.

It takes only a fraction of a second, the fraction she created, and in here it may as well be an eternity.

The sword continues its sharp arc, and this time there is nothing to stop it.

The impact shakes her entire body and her right shoulder goes numb, but the gun is in her left hand now and the barrel is already pressed up under his chin when it hits.

"I fired five times," she says, and presses a little harder.

Behind Souji's back, the last drops of paint from her first shot make small, wet noises as they splash against the floor, and she permits herself a thin smile as she releases her finger from the trigger and steps back.

It tastes sweet indeed.


Definitely a case of "thinking too hard about game mechanics", but given that you start with stats in the low single digits, it does seem like the gang should be zipping around at superhuman speeds by the time Naoto joins up. Which would also explain how the sword and knife wielders aren't horribly outclassed by the new party member with a gun.