Note: Don't have any excuse of why this took so long. Real life. That's all. I'm not abandoning this and I will finish it if it kills me. I made this chapter much longer than the others to make up for my long absence. Thanks to all the favorites and follows and remember, reviews are nice too. My inbox is always open for questions and clarification so without further ado, enjoy!
The distant screams and buzzing streetlamps made for a familiar din of noise. The jeweled caskets were a new touch. Under the harsh light of the moon, they let off a dull shimmer. He wondered what made them different from the black ones. It did serve to show that he was somewhere new. Strange. The last thing he could remember was the distant tingle of magic. Echoes of pain and a hazy recollection of how he was brought to this new place. His body trembled at the reminder or maybe that was the chill of the wind he was feeling. All he had was the thin shirt and pants someone dressed him in. A squelching sound drug him out his fog of thought, slate eyes gazing at the ground.
How careless of him. He stepped out the puddle of blood he inadvertently walked in. Crimson footprints dotted his path, gripping the two possessions he found beside him within a tight grip. Picking them up was a blank spot in his memory as was his venture outside. In his left hand was his Evoker. It didn't look like his Evoker but he just knew that it was. Philemon explained why he changed it but it still escaped him. The stick in his hand felt strange like when he fused Personas to get new weapons. He slowed to a stop in a four lane intersection to inspect it. The wood was an ashy color with a strange silvery thread running through it to the tip. It was attached to a pewter grip adorned with delicate engravings of a familiar mask. He wondered how he could call on his Persona with such a flimsy item. How was he supposed to shoot himself with it?
Then again, he would call on his Persona as a last resort. His body still felt weak and his mana reserves low. Personas weren't the only way to destroy Shadows. He still had his small sword. It felt balanced in his hand and was in perfect condition. The metal gleamed in the light as he turned to check the hilt. A beautiful silver sheen, cushioned grip and diamonds? Bringing it closer to his face confirmed his findings. The silver butterfly on the top of the pommel was inlaid with purple diamonds. Ostentatious and a little much, but he held worse weapons in his hands.
A sharp thrust put some of his worries to rest on the weight. Hilt aside, it was a fitting weapon. He could still fight Shadows. The night wind blew and sent a chill through him though it did not deter him from his task. He didn't know how to get back where he came from anyway. How long had he been out? Time was irreverent during the Dark Hour. The thought brought an introspective frown to his face and he found himself staring at the moon. No, not at the moon. At Her. Was his sacrifice meaningless? He died to prevent the End but here he was. A seal broken by an unknown entity and alive. Living and breathing in the still air of the Dark Hour, dull aches making his limbs tremble and hunting Shadows.
His grip tightened on the stick. Ryoji was nowhere to be found either. Did they get separated? Was he hurt? He could not lose him too. Things was confusing enough and he did not need the familiar quiet ache of grief to go with it. It sat there, making his chest tight. The silence around him left him alone with his worries and made him wary to his surroundings. Most the screams long faded into the night and it was bothersome. Shadows never went quiet when on the prowl for a good hunt. Was it that they felt his presence and were trying to ambush him? The jingle of a chain and the growl gave him his answer and cued to leap back before he was attacked. His eyes widened in surprise at the Mighty Beast occupying the spot where he once stood. It was a blunt reminder to keep his back unexposed. What was a Shadow that strong doing outside of Tartarus?
The thought was put aside as the Shadow charged and lunged at him, mouth full of sharp fangs. With a swift pivot and a thrust, he shoved his sword straight through its skull. The force behind his strike dispersed the monster into black sludge that dripped down his weapon. At least, he was not rusty. The wave of weakness hit him hard and quick as the burst of adrenaline dissipated, bare feet stinging from the asphalt. He forced himself to stay upright and rubbed the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. He must be worse off than he thought. Being tired was no excuse. If Shadows of that level were roaming around, he needed to take them out before someone got hurt.
The voice calling out to him in the night was enough to put him on edge. He knew it could be a trick and he slid smoothly into an attack stance. What he saw running towards him through the coffin covered streets baffled him. Pharos was running towards him with a group of strangers in tow. They didn't look Japanese and they were gawking at the environment. Where was he? No, that could wait. How were they moving during the Dark Hour? The only reason he could come up with was they held the potential in some manner. There was no more time to think about it as the striped boy barreled into him. Thin arms went around his waist and it was good foresight that he braced himself. A sniffle caught his attention and his shirt slowly started to come warm and damp with tears.
Why his friend looked this way could wait until he was more calm. Tucking his stick behind his ear, he started to pet Pharos' head. Such a comforting gesture was still awkward for him. He fell back on what he recall Ryoji doing to him in the Collective Unconsciousness. His own worry dissipated despite the protest his body was giving at the tight hug. They both needed the reassurance. His gaze moved to the strangers standing a few feet away with their own sticks out. Did Philemon make them Evokers too? He couldn't make out the conversation from where he was standing, but they did come with Pharos. He would deem them safe for now.
"I am fine, Pharos. Don't cry. I'm sorry that I worried you." Makoto said in Japanese, carding his fingers through soft curly locks.
Teal eyes shining with tears met his own and the little boy shook his head. The grip on the back of his shirt tightened and made him shiver as cool night air hit his skin. Pharos broke the gaze to wipe his face with a dry part of his shirt. The look he got in return was filled with relief and waning fear.
"Worried? No. I was scared, Makoto-kun. There was so much blood and you wouldn't wake up," Pharos made a point to look at their surroundings, "The Dark Hour is back and we're alive. She's alive too."
He knew. Pharos' existence was proof enough. What brought the Dark Hour back this time? The contract he signed with Philmeon didn't give him any direction. His senpai would be disappointed with his lack of leadership skills. A confused frown graced his features as he calmed his friend down. Senpai? Who was his senpai? There was only Pharos and Ryoji for as long as he could remember. He wracked his brain for any older classmates he knew and drew a blank, his arm stinging in pain. Did he lose memories? He could ask those questions later. He pulled away from the embrace and let Pharos take his hand instead. The soft surge of power that flowed between their palms was enough to push down his silent panic. A tiny smile came to his face as he saw him relax too. It was like being in the Sea of the Collective Unconsciousness again.
"We won't let Her win, Pharos. While I was asleep, I got help from an entity called Philemon. I'll explain the rest later. What about the strangers you came with?" he asked.
Pharos narrowed his eyes at the vague answer. He tugged him until he bent down and he could grab the fancy stick from behind his ear. He gave it a curious look over.
Giving it a few twirls in his hand he said, "They've been helping so far and gave us a place to stay. Come on, you need to get inside before you get sick. How's your English?"
"You're gonna need it, Makoto-kun."
There were little things that he forgot about while being the Great Seal. Tiredness was a big one. Sure, he slept except was not an actual rest. How could he describe it? It was like trying to tune a radio. Some frequencies came in strong and others were static depending on how the dial was turned. There were sensations and sometimes words. Ryoji kept him company when he drifted. Another thing was breathing. How silly a notion, right? Being dead gave him little reason to fill his lungs with air. He wondered if this was his actual body. Very unlikely since he was no doubt cremated. Whatever. What was important was getting more food in his stomach. It was hot and left a cloying texture in his mouth as he swallowed.
His body protested for him to slow down but everything tasted like ambrosia from the heavens. While he might be unfamiliar with the dishes and flavors, it was delicious. Makoto didn't realize how much he missed eating. He lifted the spoon full of mashed potatoes to his mouth and winced as his hand spasmed. The spoon dropped down back into his plate and he gave it a baleful glare. It was not fun the first time and it was starting to get irritating. He was handling a sword earlier and now he could barely lift a spoon? Said sword and fancy stick - which he was told was a wand - sat on the ridiculously long dining table with the strangers inspecting them.
The shaggy looking man kept giving him a weird look but he was used to those. The redheaded woman who fixed him the leftovers to eat was keeping a wide berth though he figured that was because of Pharos. He thanked her in stilted English for the meal and kept part of his attention on the two wizards looking over his possessions. It was like he was in a bad fantasy anime. The magic part was a little disconcerting especially when he was used to dealing with it on a supernatural level. Not for making things float or creepy lights come out of them. The old bearded man reminded him of a human Daisoujou. He waved his crooked wand over his sword and said something to his other scruffy mustached companion.
The conversation was too low for his ears to pick up on unfortunately. It was unnerving to learn that he was in England. That was nowhere near Japan and how did he get here? A soft poke brought him out his thought and he turned to see Pharos holding the spoon with food on it. That was going to take some getting used to. He did not enjoy that twinkle in his eyes. Makoto rolled his eyes but opened his mouth to allowed himself to be fed. His hands twitched in his lap as he nestled them there, wanting to try feeding himself again. Just wipe that teasing look off his face. He could do it once his hands decided to listen to him. It was in agreement with the rest of his aching body that he settle down.
Makoto noticed they finished inspecting his sword and wand but did not give it back to him. The old man and his companions sat down and seem to wonder how to start the conversation. He would have let them sit and let the awkward air continue but he had his own set of questions. Pharos sensed that they were about to have a talk that he was all but trying to avoid. He pushed the now clean plate away and leaned up to give help his friend take a drink of water.
"My name is Makoto Yuki and thank you for letting us into your home."Makoto said, seeing that he should get that out the way first.
The old man gave him a warm smile and motioned to the scruffy man who kept giving him a weird look since he sat down. He glanced at him before turning his head to look at Pharos. The kid made a point of giving the man one of his creepy cheerful smiles on their way back. Pharos didn't have a bad judge of character so maybe he wasn't so bad.
"Sirius is the one who opened his home to you, though we use it for our organization." Sirius wiggled his fingers in a wave as Dumbledore mentioned him.
"Organization?" he asked.
"The Order of the Phoenix, Mr. Yuki. I am the leader, Albus Dumbledore and my companions help in our fight against the Dark Lord." Dumbledore explained, introducing Ms. Weasley and Lupin.
All Makato could think of as he gave a nod of understanding was the strange name of the group. Why would they name it after a mythological bird? He shrugged and let his mind focus on the information about their arrival. Dumbledore did a good job of explaining but most of the terms flew over his head. Wandless magic? Summoning spells? Apparition? The context behind of those words would be helpful if it explained things better.
For one, the reason he was alive was still a mystery. The way Dumbledore made it sound was that he gathered that his summoning was a mistake. The so called Dark Lord succeeded in the ritual but for some reason, they were pulled along. Makoto could make a few guesses off the top of his head. He looked down at the dark butterfly on his hand with a frown. To think, there used to be a hole there and something crawled out of it. He attempted to make a fist and narrowed his eyes as his fingers gave curled inward before fatigue stopped his efforts. So focused on the reasons why he was branded that he missed the headmaster's question.
"Mr. Yuki, what is the last thing you remember? Anything can be useful."
What a tricky question. He gave the adults at the table his full attention. Why didn't Ryoji tell them what they needed to know?
"You would have to be more specific, Dumbledore-sensei. There is few 'last things' I can recall." he muttered.
He turned his head slightly when Sirius growled at him and slammed his fist on the table. "Your little friend here said we have to ask you about all this creepy shit going on!" the man snapped, not enjoying the teen's apathetic attitude.
"Sirius!" Lupin threw the man a look to shut his mouth.
That only made the thin man fold his arms and roll his eyes. "What? We have no real idea whats going on. All we have Stripes saying that the world is gonna end."
Ah. That explained enough. Pharos averted his gaze with a grim smile. He reached up and gave his head a pat, watching the two argue. It was somewhat entertaining for the fact that the thin man destroyed all the subtlety in asking what he knew. It was easier to be as truthful as he could in return.
"The Fall will come and Pharos would know that best. As for the last thing I remember, I died." Makoto said, letting his gaze wander around the room.
The sudden silence at his words was confusing. They wanted to know and he told them. Did he make a mistake and say it wrong? Why were they looking at him in shock and disbelief? English could be frustrating at times but, he was sure that he said the words correctly.
"Did I misspeak, Pharos?" he asked.
The boy shook his head and shifted in his chair until he could lean into his side. Maybe they were hung up on the dying part. Then again, confirming the world was going to end was not reassuring either. Dumbledore gave him a serious gaze as he folded his hands. It was like he was trying to peer in his mind to see if he was telling the truth. He mused on how the old man really looked liked a Daisoujou now. When the headmaster asked for clarification, he was not sure where to start.
The final battle stuttered in his mind like a corrupted file but he could clearly remember Nyx. Taking every punishing blow, unfamiliar voices washing over him and giving him strength, creating the Arcana that saved humanity. He furrowed his brows and bought a hand up to rub the bridge of his nose. He distinctly remembered his head in someone's lap and a sense of peace as he slipped away.
"Makoto? You okay?"
Everything after was hazy and indistinct except the brief moments of awareness with Ryoji. That cheery yellow scarf, gentle but strong fingers running through his head and meaningless conversation. That peace was disturbed when that horror destroyed them. No. Not destroyed. It ripped his soul asunder and taunted him as it did so. Mocked his accomplishments as Ryoji's dying screams echoed through the sea.
Gods, it just wouldn't stop. He leaned his head back and huffed out a tight laugh. It wasn't like fighting Shadows or being a shield as a Great Seal. He was a measly annoyance that amused the monster when he challenged it. He could still feel the sensation of those masked tentacles crushing his head into dust. Nothing but unending suffering and the all encompassing void that swallowed his screams.
Jerking at the sound of his name, Makoto gripped the tiny hands clutching his own. He felt a little lightheaded and his throat felt dry. Did he say that out loud? The memories had hit him so hard that they just...swept him along. His mouth just let his thoughts fall out. He took a deep breath and took a look at the people in the room. He did not like what he saw. A mixture of pity, contemplation and silent horror. Mrs. Weasley was clutching at her apron and in near tears.
He disliked the looks and wondered why he spoke his thoughts aloud. Did that monster affect him more than he thought? He tried to remember more. There was something he was missing. He was sure of it.
"No. Don't go back there. Look at me."
Pharos' worried voice focused him and he squeezed his hands to indicate he was listening. He let him pull his hands away to tug him down so their foreheads touched. Makoto hummed as his tiredness caught up with him, weighing him down.
"I...I'm fine. Just tired. Don't know why I went off like that."he mumbled as he closed his eyes and turned out the world around him.
He missed the conversation going on around him and instead relished the silence in his own mind. The lack of his voice from his Persona was disquieting but he could feel them there waiting to be called. The passage of time was unimportant until he heard Royji saying it was time to call it a night. Wait, Ryoji? He was more tired than he thought if opening his eyes was a hassle. Ryoji was grinning like a fool even as he pulled him out of the chair. At least he knew the Dark Hour ended.
Makoto helped Ryoji get his arm over his shoulder for support and was happy to be getting to sleep in a bed. He let out a low goodbye and couldn't help but look forward to soft pillows and comfy sheets. Dumbledore's parting words were an afterthought as he was guided up the stairs.
"Apologies. We shouldn't have pushed you so hard. Please rest and don't worry about your possessions. Sirius will give them to your in the morning."
"That could have went a lot better. You are more out of tune with your feelings than I assumed. Why-",
"-do I have no brain to mouth filter? Because I'm tired, Ryoji."
Ryoji scoffed but let the matter drop as they continued up the stairs. Makoto liked to think he was some kind of unfeeling robot but he knew better. They needed to have a talk and that was easier dealt with when they were alone. A relived smile came onto his face as the other boy tried to keep up with his pace. Even when he was bone tired, he was still so strong. He let out a content laugh at Makoto's grumble as he tugged him close to get a better grip. All that mattered was he was safe. Irritated, tired, a little confused and blunt to a fault but safe. They both needed a rest before making any plans.
"Ryoji! You have any idea what happ - oh, is this your friend?"
Maybe he spoke too soon. He leaned over the banister of the second set of stairs, ignoring the protest of his sleepy charge. He peered down into dimly lit hall to see Harry, Ron and Hermione. It was a blessing that the Dark Hour ended. It would have hard to explain the situation. He used his free hand to throw a wave their way.
"Yes, my sleeping prince has finally opened his eyes! By the by, shouldn't little girls and boys be asleep?" he teased, ending with a sharp grunt when a hand pinched his arm.
The three gave him a funny look before turning to mutter among themselves. They asked him what the commotion was about and drew in him into an evasive back and forth. He didn't want to be mysterious but he got a feeling the Order wouldn't be so happy letting things slip. Besides, there were some things they were better off not knowing. He didn't tell them about Personas or Shadows yet and that was only because he was waiting for Makoto. ugh, they really needed to have a serious talk.
"Talk to your annoying fans later, Ryoji. I was promised a bed. A bed that should have clean sheets and feathery pillows." Makoto pinched his neck, his quiet expression masking the growing irritation in his eyes.
"We aren't his fans!"
"Oh great, he's a rude one."
In any other intsance, Ryoji would have corrected them if he had the chance. One hard tug up the next pair of steps made him miss his chance. Whatever the trio said was covered up by the creaking of the stairs. He sighed and continued to lead his friend to the bedroom. It was just another thing to smooth over until Makoto was back to his usual aloof self.