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Enlightenment

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Sae had taken the phone with her.

Akira… couldn’t quite remember, but the empty spot on the table, the faint brushstroke gleam of buff marks in the steel, that was.  That was. Good. Important.

(the pain had become a bathwater ocean to drift deep within... was this the sea of souls shadows came from...?  dark and wavering...?)

If only he could remember why.  They. Why would they have left him his phone.  Why was it so important it wasn’t there. It shouldn’t be there.  But he’d…

won.

The haziness of the room, the thick salt burn miles deep in every direction, the strange sensation of fuzzy glass in front of his brain… how was this winning?

The light overhead flickered and burned a color out, turning dim and green.  Like soup. Weird soup, all salty-metallic with too many old greens and chicken bones, lukewarm and clammy when it spilled on you...

Winning.  He’d been… been thinking about... winning… and how the blood in his mouth tasted like bad soup?  Green sea soup. Bad lightbulbs.

… something was wrong with that thought...

The door opened.

Akira managed to drag his eyes up from the splash of dark blood on the table.  Right, that would be. Skull was supposed to… and Fox…

Tea blond.  Noir…? No, she didn’t wear olive green.  The hair was flat. No fancy hat. Also, male, kind of a big clue… oh.

Oh .

That was why the phone was important.

Crow.  Corou. Gorou.  You aren’t supposed to be here.

Gorou’s intent expression cracked.  “Well,” he said, holstering his gun.  “At least we expected you’d need an ambulance.”

But Gorou wasn’t supposed to be here.  This wasn’t supposed to be happening. The phone was gone.  They’d won. This wasn’t… wasn't...

Gorou leaned out the door, and although his eyes stayed pinned to Akira he called out to someone else.  "Oyaji!" But... Gorou didn't have a family... "Hurry up with that Dia!"

"Coming."  A premature?-gray guy built like a tank poked his head into the room.  “Got a chair just in case,” he said, voice soft and rumbling deep through Akira’s head.  The man pushed a bloodstained rolly office chair through the door, then glanced at Akira, scowled, and pulled out a gun.

Akira's reflexive flinch blinded him with boiling hot pain, but he heard the shot.

"Diarahan."

Wouldn't work, Akira was dead, dead and still.. still... thinking...?  Seeing...? Breathing air instead of bloodwater as a Persona, massive and pale, faded from view above the gray man's head.

Gray holstered a gun that had been aimed at his own face rather than Akira's.

Wha...?

Gray knelt and reached for him.  This time Akira's back hit the chair when he flinched away from Gray's hands.

"Hey, easy," he said quietly, then, "Look," (look at what?) and dragged one partially-bandaged finger back and forth across Akira's vision.  Back and forth... back and forth... "He's not tracking. They put him on something, I think."

Gorou groaned.  "I knew we should've brought Teddie."

"Yeah."  Gray stood and hooked the office chair over.  “We can tie him on," he told Gorou, "but that’ll slow us down if we have to get him out and dump it.”

“Do it,” Gorou said sharply.  “It’s five kilos, we won’t need to abandon it.”

A third guy, a couple of years younger than the first and built even larger, ducked into the room.  “They’re startin’ to form outside,” he said. For some reason, he was wearing tinted sunglasses at night.  Akira’s eyes skidded past the sunglasses and caught on a Junes mascot barrette holding the guy’s hair out of his face.  "What's takin' so long?"

"Drugs," Gray said succinctly.  "Give me the rope, we need the chair after all."

"Hell."  Barrette dug a coil of shimmering white rope from... somewhere... and reached for a glowing blue card in the air.  "I'll hold 'em off. Incoming!"

A gloppy black lump oozed through the door and snarled.

Akira flopped his fingers at his face.  Name. He needed... name.

"Robin Hood!" Gorou snapped over another gunshot.

Not that one.  Arson. ... No...?  Not. He'd had other masks on.  Other. Ran...da? No, that wasn't quite... there was another letter in there somewhere...  Power. He'd had... Power. With its wiggly horns and the octopus on its shield. Black crow wings.  Fox had sketched a chibi of it the other day, trying to cheer Akira up, and put a takoyaki on the shield.

He blinked, and found the world had tilted on him.  Something had him strapped to a padded chair, swaying bouncing in Gray and Barrette's hands as they climbed stairs.  Soft rope, he found, flopping at a large lumpy knot on his chest. The knot had loops around his wrists, so his hand didn't slither off his body and onto the floor to be stepped on.

"Back with us?" Barrette asked.

Heh.  Slither.  Crow should've worn green.  Not the weird-lightbulbs ugly one.  Hogwarts. Sneaky smart. Not good.

"Close enough," Barrette muttered.  The world spun and righted itself to a soup-green empty police station.  Akira knew those. Ugly. Bad coffee. Worse people. But no people here now, which was good, as they zoomed through all hell-on-wheels and suns out.  Guns out.

Gorou why do you need a gun.  No.

Another goopy snarl, and another puddly tar thing attacked.  Burst into Shadows like none Akira had ever seen before, stone arms carrying swords, floating red knights.  And Gorou...

Gorou shot himself in the heart.

"CROW!"

No no no no no no nononononono

Gorou.  Still standing.  Loki this time, Loki floating above him, too large for the hallway, too large for Gorou to.  to. not? die?

Maybe the green world had broken guns.  Like the red one had working fakes. Opposites.  Sneaky world. Gorou world. Crow family and old-man hair and shooty Dia and Junes barrettes.  Slime-stained crazed-glass doors that didn't break when they shoved through.

Green moon.  More snarly tar.  Clanky chain rattle.  Akira's head rolled, and he looked for blue.  Badplace twins...? Green was almost blue. Rattle rattle.  Clang the bars. Pay attention, inmate.

Pay attention.

It's the Reaper! a woman gasped, crackly static zappy.   It's between us-- ten meters, closing in on you, sending backup now!  Three minutes!

"Got it, Juno," Gorou said, tight and unhappy.  Crow no. "Can you guys hold out three minutes?"

"Gonna have to," Gray said.

The world rolled upright, and gravity kept going while the street stayed put.  Barrette had the card out again, blue sparkle, bright pale, spinny halfmask... twoface mask... sparkle blue...

... butterfly blue...

"Takeji Zaiten!"

The blue was gone.

A piece of Mementos drifted, towering above their heads.  Blood and black, steel and bone, chains rattling.

"... scream ..." it breathed, voice buzzing in and out.

Light.

Explosions.

Gorou was screaming.  Gorou was... Gorou was... he needed his mask, where was his mask?  Thou art I, I am thy mask, and the wavery greenmoon world had stolen them all, torn a strip of Mementos off and the screaming... the screaming...

A speck of light drifted across Akira's vision.

Something.  Something was.  Watching.

Blue and gold.  Blue and white. Blue and black.  Gold eyes, something other , something--

-- powerful --

Akira had no mask.  His fingers curled under.  No masks here. No masks, but...

(an Evoker)

... if you could convince yourself it was a gun...

(will you die here...?)

... and guns were broken, were magic, were...

... were...

Per

(accept all responsibility)

so

(goodbye now)

na

A fall of blue hair carved to marble.  Blank stone under graven half-lids.

It's my world , that power said.

A teardrop fell from a stone eye.

I'm sorry, I can't let it fall apart behind my back.

It wasn't Arsene.  Power surged through Akira's veins, searing and fizzy-sharp, tasting of cold ashes in his throat, the last echoing thrum of a note in dead air.

Gorou was down.  Gray was down. Barrette had fallen to one knee, his Persona blocking most of Akira's view.  Footsteps slapped quickly in the distance, shouting, too far away.

Akira brought his single finger up to his temple.  Gun. Gun like Gorou's. Like Gray's. Drop his thumb, fire.

The night was so bright .

"Messiah."