Yukiko hears the rumors about the stray dog through Souji. Rumors take their time in reaching her, and this one comes over the phone a few days after the Christmas-New Year season at the inn, when she's reclining on a chair in one of the back halls. Souji is running an errand, and wants to know if she (or anyone else, really) knows where to find a collection of Russian dolls; she recommends a hobby store on the north side of the shopping district, and then, when Souji says he's already checked it, suggests an old woman's house, not too far from Chie's house. The woman gave her dolls when she was little, and said that Yukiko looked like a doll herself. Yukiko had once thought it a compliment, but as she grew older, she became angry with the dolls, and threw all of them out.
Inugami-san, Souji says, repeating the name. And then he mentions a dog running around the shopping district.
An interesting looking dog, he says. All white and beautiful. She reminds me of you.
Yukiko laughs, because she's certainly worked like one over the last few days. He smiles into the phone.
Go see her, he urges. I'm sure you'll like her.
She goes through the shopping district on her free day the next morning. It's early enough that the shops are now just beginning to open. Yukiko liked to imagine she was invisible when she was little, and this was about as close as she could get to it. Now she likes the peace and the intimacy of the world in the morning. It is times like these that make her understand, a little, why the elderly like to go on walks.
She spots the rumored dog on the edge between the north and south shopping district—and she stares.
The dog is not a dog at all. A canine, yes, but no dog. Yukiko's only seen wolves in picture books, but she knows that this is a wolf: proud and large and handsome, with magnificant white fur and the strangest red markings on her face and legs and back. Even though Yukiko knows that she shouldn't, she reaches out for the wolf, and the wolf barks at her and leans into her touch. The fur is soft, but thick and layered. The wolf almost seems to purr as her hands drift behind the ear.
What nice fur you have, she says to the wolf. But these markings. I wonder where they came from?
The wolf barks again, and licks her wrist. It doesn't seem as though someone drew them on. When she runs her hand over the markings, she feels a strange power seeping through them. The wolf nudges her hand away from the markings, and redirects them back to her ears.
No one else can see the red markings, which bothers Yukiko less than it should. Even Souji looks at her a little oddly when she tells him about the markings. He says the wolf did give off a strange vibe, but the wolf was white as bone and stone and snow. Nor did he recall seeing a wolf. Perhaps they were thinking of different animals--or perhaps, Chie teased, Yukiko needs to brush up on her wildlife identifications.
Rise suggests that she might be hallucinating, which makes her feel a little irritated, but also a bit silly. So she goes back to the shopping district. The wolf is nowhere in sight, but Naoki mentions that he had sent the white dog out on an errand for him. He had hoped to get Souji to find his lost calculator, but Souji seemed so busy that he decided to look for the calculator himself. He mentioned it to the dog, and the dog took off to the rice paddies.
That makes sense, yes, Yukiko says.
Naoki looks surprised, and then smiles in that slight, soft way of his. Come on, Yukiko-sempai, he says. It was just a joke.
She finds the wolf on her way back home. The wolf is shaking water out of its fur. When Yukiko approaches the wolf, the wolf breaks out into a run and circles her feet. She bends down to pet it, running her hand along the length of her back, but then she hits something hard and unexpected: a shield, with fire coming out of the back.
You, Yukiko says, a little uncertain how to approach the subject. Who are you?
It barks, just once, and then looks her in the eye--and the sun feels warmer on her skin, though it's winter, and there are echoes in her head, reverberating and overlapping and echoing, a warmth that floods her, a recognition--
I am thou
and thou art I
She pulls away with a startled little gasp. Then, knowing she cannot be afraid, bends over and strokes its neck.
Mother, she whispers. Mother of us all.
And Amaterasu looks pleased.
The main difference between having one's Persona being Amaterasu and meeting the goddess itself is that Amaterasu is a part of her dressed as a god, and the goddess is a god dressed in the part of a wolf. Yukiko might be able to set monsters on fire, kill gods with the help of her teammates, bring back the dead, or the nearly-so with a grit of her teeth and flourish of the fan, but she cannot make the sun rise and set at will. She cannot make time slow, heavy and shimmering as though she's seeing things through a veil. Where Amaterasu walks, grass blooms, and the air is sweeter. People become more peaceful and gentler, more kindly and more perfect.
On one rainy day by the Samegawa, Amaterasu lets her stand at her shoulder as Amaterasu draws the sun with her white tail, and make the clouds disappear. No: Amaterasu is beginning the day all over again. Everyone is rising, people are headed for school.
Amaterasu nudges her hand, and tells her to not be afraid. So Yukiko is not, and takes out the fishing rod Amaterasu asked her to fetch. They spend the day fishing, and though she's never been any good at it, the goddess' presence reassures her, and makes her hands steadier and fishing better. She catches the Guardian at sundown, and Amaterasu runs around in circles in joy, howling away at a rising half moon that, with a flourish of a brush, turns whole, a white orb of fruit in a crystaline night sky.
Yukiko stares up in wonder. She's never seen the night this beautiful before. The goddess seems to smile at her, and thumps her tail at the ground.
When she returns home, she feels so inexplicably exhausted that she collapses on top of the futon without even rolling it out, and sleeps.
Amaterasu does not leave until after Souji does. After Souji's train pulls away, Yukiko turns around and sees Amaterasu standing in the west. Everyone else bends down and pets its head, praising the goddess, though they do not know who or what she is. Yukiko goes last, and kneels in front of the goddess so she can talk to her a little easier.
You're leaving, too? Yukiko asks.
Amaterasu licks her hand. Of course, Yukiko thinks. Izanami is gone, though not dead--if there's one thing being around Amaterasu has taught Yukiko about gods, it's that they're always, always holding back, and are never as dead as people say they are--and the town is safe. She wonders what the town looked like to Amaterasu. Maybe to Amaterasu, everything had been dressed in grey and purple and shadows. Maybe now Amaterasu knows the town as Yukiko has always: springtime, bright and blooming and beautiful.
She's always thought it strange that no one else could see that Amaterasu leaving flowers and grass growing in her wake, though they always stopped to admire the beauty.
Yukiko doesn't cry, because she knows Amaterasu will be back, and she knows Amaterasu is always there, both in the sun and within her and every person. But still, she needs to ask.
Will you be back? she asks, stroking Amaterasu's cheek, and the goddess nods. The goddess barks, once, as though to congratulate, and leaves for another place, another story.
She goes out to visit a shrine to Amaterasu, and offers an empty inkpot and an inkstone that shines bright in the sun. People think she's a little strange, but to her it makes perfect sense, and one of the priests invites her to stay the night. The inkpot and inkstone are gone by sundown, and she's glad.
He wakes her before the sun rises, and tells her to look to the east.
Look, he says. If you watch carefully, you can see the goddess painting the sun in. Yukiko looks out to the east, and then sees it: sitting on the horizon, Amaterasu dips her tail into a pot of ink, carefully, almost languidly, as though she has all the time in the world. Then she draws a circle in the sky, and the sun comes into view, weak as a newborn. Amaterasu urges it on, and it goes up, up, higher--
When she comes back to herself, it's late in the morning, and the priest is gone. She returns to the temple, half in a daze.
Did you see it? The priest asks.
Yes, she says. For a moment, the priest looks to her like a man with long white hair carrying a flute--then, when she blinks, it's just an old man in his dark robes.
Come back again, he tells her. And she will.