To pray at a tree? Aigis could hardly understand how people grew to believe that doing something like that could grant anyone what they wanted, but right now she would keep said thoughts to herself. Minako seemed so happy to do something like this with her, so she would never go and ruin that joy with her questions.
"I’ll gladly follow you, Minako-San." Yea, it was enough to be with her, there was no need to start questioning things left and right.
Her response was to simply smile, leading the way towards the practice building, stopping short at the walkway when the famous tree came into view. She sauntered over to it slowly, taking her time since they didn’t have to worry about classes anymore, after hearing the dismissal bell ring several minutes ago.
Minako knew that, to Aigis, praying at the Persimmon Tree wouldn’t make any sense. The act would be so illogical and pointless, but—
"Sometimes, it pays just to believe, you know?"
The name was repeated softly, flowing off her tongue in one sweep as it was carried away by the winds, being shared among the rest of the Mother Nature. It was a name unlike others the woman had encountered and taken the time to learn the names of, but it wasn’t completely alien to her either. Or it was just the fact that Sora didn’t mind learning of more culturally diverse names derived from roots different from her own small world. Whatever the case, it was easy to remember, repeating it one more time to herself and following suit with a nod.
Minako’s words beforehand, however, struck her interest, intrigued that a girl as young as this one could have an opinion detailed like so. Young, yet wise beyond her years. If there were more people with mindsets similar to Minako’s, surely there was hope for the future after all. There would be nothing to worry about. Just from that self expression alone she could see what kind of pure heart the girl possessed in her smaller frame.
“So tell me. What brings you around these parts? Is there something you need to do, a person you need to meet? I can lend a hand if you’re lost.”
Offering her assistance to those in need was something she had done all her life when the situation was presented before her. There was no guarantee that the brunette was lost though; for all she knew, the girl could probably just be wandering about enjoying the scenery. She just wanted to let her know the offer was available for her to accept.
And because she had no direction to head in.
"Yep, that’s me."
Nodding once, the grin still firmly in place, Minako lapsed into the kind of comfortable silence that she usually shared with her friends. They were always within her memories, the shapes and every contour of their features never becoming a blur, the exact pitch of their voices as they spoke, laughed or cried. It was easy to recall especially when they were such fond memories held deep within her heart.
In the presence of a stranger, she felt so serene, as if nothing could hurt her anymore. Well, that was technically the truth. You couldn’t cause pain to someone physically dead, after all.
But her soul was alive, more than the birds in the sky and the trees in the forests, more than the wind carrying the scent of foreign leaves onto another foreign place. Everything felt so foreign. Everything felt so wonderful. As though she had started a new life, holding the knowledge and experience she had gained over the course of that one, important year.
As the girl beside her spoke, Minako’s smile only grew wider, if that was even possible.
"I’m okay. I’ve lived enough, met the people I needed to. There’s nothing left to do but breathe," she said, realizing that she must have sounded strange, answering a simple question with something so vague. "In that sense, you could say I’m just… wandering around."
"So, what’s your name, stranger?”
Although the girl offered her aid, Asuka was quick to shoot a glare from her one eye. It was clear from that that she didn’t like receiving aid from anyone, no matter the person. No doubt if she was going to be living here, it’d be putting a strain on everyone, even someone as tolerant as Minako. She didn’t knock the box away from the girl who had just returned though, accepting the favor for what it was, this one time. She just wanted to make it clear in the first place she wasn’t open to anymore than that.
"Second from the end of the hall. You can see where the boxes part."
Asuka was straight to the point. She wasn’t interested in conversation as they moved the few boxes down towards the room. Unfortunately, as they moved the couple of boxes, the room was just as crowded as the hallway. She hadn’t a clue how the other girls were going to get around them, nor did she really care. It wasn’t her problem. Setting them down, she looked back to the other girl with the same vicious look in her eyes.
"Well? What do you want? You helped, your door should be clear. Get out of here. I didn’t move in here to socialize."
Oh, the message was clear, alright. But they were living in a dorm, and to have boxes all over the third floor would inconvenience everyone on the same floor. Minako would love to be friends with this girl, but she had a feeling now wasn’t the time. She wondered if it would be alright to ask this new dorm mate anything of what she knew about the Dark Hour, but perhaps the best course of action to take was to wait for Mitsuru to do all the talking for her.
"Alright." Apparently, this girl wasn’t the type to beat around the bush. She probably wouldn’t appreciate it if Minako approached her in such a roundabout way, so saying nothing more than that, she silently moved the box into the room. Even as the venom in the newcomer’s eyes did not disappear, Minako didn’t flinch. There was no point to it, she surmised, since letting fear take over would just be a burden on both of them. Besides, what was there to be afraid of?
The stack of boxes littering the hallway, perhaps.
The girl hardened her gaze on Minako, almost as if she were snarling, telling her to scat. Minako shook her head calmly and smiled.
"Yeah, but the others will have a hard time getting to theirs. Don’t mind me. I’m just going to pile them in a corner. Should be easier for you, right?" She hesitated for a while before asking, "uh, what was your name again?"
She should probably introduce herself first, though. “I’m Minako Arisato. Let me know if you need anything else besides, you know, picking up boxes and stuff.”
It was a normal afternoon at the dorm and the young archer was sitting on one of the couches trying to attempt her homework. She had been lagging in English and needed to concentrate so she could be ready for the upcoming exam. Yet her eyes kept wandering towards the window ever so often to check the grey clouds that were gathering up in the air. She was nervous, the weather man said it was going to rain this afternoon, though didn’t say if it was going to be either a storm or a drizzle. The girl bit her lip as she hoped for the later of the two;
It wasn’t as if she meant to have this fear, but ever since she was seven years old she always hated thunder and lightning or rain in general. Usually during these situation she would try to pass it up as nothing, but whenever she was alone she would hide under her covers and cry until the storm past. She would never tell anyone why she’d always go up to her room, just give them a small smile and be on her way.
She shivered a little as she tried to focus, but all she could think about was the rain that began to fall. It was getting to much for her to withstand. When finally a crash of thunder came she shrieked jumping from the couch and covering her ears. whimpering for her father to come save her.
It was when she heard a familiar voice that Yukari finally opened her eyes. Only too see her leader looking at her with worried eyes.
The window frame was like a painting of a dark, cloudy sky. Rain fell and it pitter-pattered against the glass like the tap of a rhythmic drum. Minako liked hearing it; for some reason it felt soothing to the ears, although she couldn’t help but wonder where the uneasiness came from. It nagged at the back of her mind, and when it usually did, the sky would roar with thunder and the clouds threw lightning in a sporadic path.
Minako had a habit of counting the seconds between the sound of thunder playing and after seeing a flash of lightning. The longer the time gap, the farther it was, her science teacher had said. So if it were ten seconds apart, she could be certain it was far enough to be harmless. A storm didn’t have to be so intimidating all the time.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for a certain pink-loving archer.
Heading downstairs should have been a trip to quench her thirst, but it turned out to be something more unusual than that; something more… surprising. Yukari had always put on a tough front despite it failing to conceal her fear of the supernatural, but Minako hadn’t expected to see her shriveling on the couch and clutching onto her ears in the middle of this storm. Her initial response was to, of course, run to her friend’s side, hoping that the presence she offered would be enough to at least calm her distress.
"Yukari-chan," she called, resting a hand on Yukari’s shoulders before taking a seat beside her on the couch. "Are you alright? Does it hurt somewhere?"
Momo nods and hands her the small box, seeing that she had chosen and he eagerly awaits for her to open it. Though it might have seemed weird at first, it just depended on how the other saw it as.
When Minako finally unwrapped the gift and opened it, a small kitten face popped out from the box and meowed a ‘hello~!’. However it wasn’t a real cat! It was being projected from a somewhat thin glass that was the exact shape of the box.
“I am a special model designed to keep things in order, like your plans and I also am a friend! Nice to meet you, na~" Purred the cat while making a ‘>3<’ expression.
"Waah?" Minako jumps when something leaps out of the box she cradles in one hand, blinking twice before leaning closer when the shock dissipates. Now that she has a closer look, she discovers that it’s a kitten! Well, a holographic one, apparently, but it talks!
"Waaaah, it’s cute! Nice to meet you too!" she greets as her face splits into a wide smile. After a while, she redirects the said smile to Momo. "Technology is amazing! Thank you, Momo-chan! Where did you get this?"
"Since I’m so nice, you can open one of these now and take the other two home! I’m sure you’ll like what I got~!" He giggles with a happy smile on his face. People liked to open one Christmas present early, so why not?
Three for her? She can’t stifle the giggle. Did he go overboard with the shopping? Either way, he’s really adorable.
"Well, can I open the little one right now?" She reaches for the presents so he doesn’t have to hold them all for much longer. He still has that big sack to worry about, after all. "This one with the Pixie wrapping. I wonder what’s in it?"
"Hi, Minako~! Here! And it’s okay, Shun let me if it made me happy ehehe." He then goes to the big sack next to him, pulling out three wrapped up gifts: one was medium sized with Jack Frost wrapping paper, another was a small one enough to fit the palm of your hand wrapped in Pixie wrapping paper; and the last one was quite bigger than the two and wrapped in bunny paper.
"Oh," she casts her gaze at the sack which seems to hold a bundle of carefully-wrapped presents, which Momo pulls three out of and holds them all before her. Minako looks up at him with a wide-eyed wonder.
"Um, all of these? Or do I pick one?"
"Guys, guys! I bought your Christmas gifts early, and wrapped them up so come and get them from me!!!"
She huffs. “No fair! I haven’t gotten around to doing my Christmas shopping yet!”
"Of course I am. You could use with a little bit of smiling yourself, though. Nii-chan, keep that up and you’ll get stuck with that face."
Okay, after I respond to Yukari’s (the-lovers-archer) starter, I’m going to write some starters of my own.
Let me know if you’d like one!
The other’s words barely registered in his mind as that feeling overtook him, causing him to grimace and drop the brave front. It was not just the way he was gripping his wrist then—there was something in the stranger’s words that made him feel as if the other just split his head open with a machete instead of just twisting his arm then.
“Tch.” Frown deepening at Akihiko’s expression, the lookalike then shoved him backwards, sending Akihiko crashing against the stack of video tapes.
“Strength… That is just an excuse,” the yellow-eyed other said, stepping forward as he approached the fallen man. “There’s no ‘strength’ to speak of in your undertakings. You just want to run away from it all, immersing yourself in such foolhardy endeavors, unable to accept the reality that your loved ones have left you.” He glared at Akihiko. “You disgust me—insulting Miki’s memory by using her death as a mere excuse for your actions.”
Akihiko staggered as he pulled himself to his feet, groaning as he felt a sharp jolt down his spine while straightening up. Meeting the other’s golden gaze while holding up a hand to his head, he tried to recall the bitter words thrown at him before he was cast aside.
…I am you… and… you are… me. He narrowed his eyes at his doppelganger. Just… what was the other playing at? Was that some kind of sick joke? Certainly, he must be messing with his head, as there was no way he would be that derisive of his ideals, even going as far as to incorporating his deceased sister’s name in such twisted reasoning.
Unforgivable as it was, he was able to tell from his contact earlier that this was no ordinary human being he was dealing with, what with the surprising—almost inhuman—amount of strength the other used to manhandle him. Throwing another punch recklessly was definitely not an option as of the moment, and he had to stall for time in order to determine a viable method of dealing with the person before him.
“You… cannot be me,” he said, still clutching his head as he hardened his gaze on the other. “…I’ve only ever sought strength to make up for my lack of it back in those days, not because of those reasons you spoke of. Sure, Miki’s death was a part of it, but it’s not an excuse! If anything, you should be ashamed of yourself for using her name in such a manner.”
Minako walked with an air of uncertainty and strife, neither of which she would ever be able to emulate. Her messy, auburn hair bounced lightly with each step. Her eyes searched every nook and cranny of the area, restlessly looking away once she realized that there was no way she could recognize the place, especially after having only visited Inaba for one day.
Not to mention this blasted fog was in the way. If only she had a Persona that possessed a skill to see through any haze. This search would have been over in a moment. But that skill was reserved for another girl. Fuuka, as timid as she was, had been the one to connect them all. Minako knew the thought was rather infantile; she should have been glad to have access to the Wild Card’s power. There wasn’t anything wrong with the way she handled things; usually others would praise her for being so calm in the midst of a desperate struggle. But if they could see her now, what would they think?
She kept walking until an old house came into view. Or perhaps mansion would be a better term, considering the size. She couldn’t tell if there were signs of it being used, but the… door was open?
Her eyes narrowed, filled with diffidence and indecision, staring up at the suspicious building she had found out of nowhere. Mulling over the decision for a while seemed like a waste of time, though, so without giving herself time to hesitate, Minako marched up to the front porch and entered the living room.
'You… cannot be me.'
Minako looked stunned for a moment before regaining her composure. There was no name attached to the end of the sentence, but she undoubtedly knew the voice well. It went on, seemingly sounding distressed. Truth be told she didn’t listen to the words being said, only desperately following where they had been coming from. She wasn’t mistaken—that was Akihiko’s voice. Who could he be talking to?
Stepping forward, biting her lip when the wooden floor creaked underfoot, her eyes widened at the sight of not one, but two Akihiko Sanadas in the other room. She had found what she was looking for, but not in the way she had hoped.
One Akihiko looked strange, somehow, cold, and… angry, wearing an awful sneer that seemed to send an unpleasant shiver down her spine. It wasn’t anything like the warm, soothing smile she received whenever she fell beside him on the dormitory’s living room couch. A part of her wanted to turn around and walk away, but she really just wanted to take the warmer, the real Akihiko home with her.
"Senpai. Are you alright?"