Friendly competitions were something that Minako took a little too seriously.
Sure, just going with the flow and enjoying a moment between buddies was fine. Who could deny the sense of belonging when hanging out with someone else? It gave purpose to the meaning of being human.
On the other hand, Arisato’s were proud like lions.
Declining a challenge would be a sign of weakness.
So that’s how she found herself in a heated push-up contest with Akihiko in the Naganaki Shrine park. Even though it was Sunday, they never missed getting up at dawn for some exercise. One thing led to another and they ended up having a battle of who could go the longest without getting tired.
However, when you challenge someone whose strengths are in core and upper body training, push-ups were not exactly the fairest for someone who was proficient in cardio. Her arms were already starting to feel like limp noodles. The muscles in her shoulders screamed for relief but were ignored for the sake of proving a point.
“Having trouble keeping up?” Akihiko asked, putting one arm behind his back just to show off. “You can stop whenever you want.”
“In your dreams, golden boy!” she said in between exhausted breaths. Her stomach burned as she spoke, but the irritation kept her from faltering. “Don’t underestimate a runner. My sport is your sport’s punishment.”
Akihiko chuckled, hoping to the other arm. “I think I’m estimating just right.”
After two more minutes of them trying to outdo the other, Minako was struggling to keep up her breakneck pace. Her lungs now seemed to shrivel up as her breathing became more labored.
Still, she told herself she could win. Her partner would get tired eventually; using only one arm would certainly tire him out quicker. She just had to bide her time.
Breathe in, up.
Breathe out, down.
Ignore the pain, and repeat.
Breathe in, up.
Breathe out, down.
Breathe in, up.
Breathe out, down.
Breathe in, up-
All at once, disaster struck in the most horrible way imaginable.
Her arms were stuck halfway up.
That’s when Minako began to panic. She willed her limbs to move, but the slowness of the action drained her remaining strength.
“Come on-” Before she could even think of taking another deep breath, she toppled over into the dirt. As she did, she hit her shoulder on the concrete. “Nooo-!” she cried out, but her voice came out as a distressed wheeze. It had sent her into a coughing fit.
"Ha, told you so!" Akihiko said.
Minako rolled on her back and closed her eyes in an attempt to breathe easier. “Y-you win. Just l-leave me here to wallow in my shame.”
Why did losing have to feel so painful?
She opened her eyes to take in the early morning sky. They had started later than usual, so the sun was starting to make its climb. Streaks of red and purple mixed together as day and night blurred like an oil painting being washed away.
“Looks like the sun’s coming out.” Minako noticed out of the corner that Akihiko had plopped himself next to her. He leaned back so he could look up at the beautiful sight before them.
She frowned and turned her attention back to the heavens. “Aren’t you gonna gloat about winning?” The girl waved him on. “I promise I won’t complain. You deserve it.”
Akihiko hummed but surprised her. “Not feeling it today. Besides, you did okay. You’ve got grit that most of the sophomore boxers I know . . . for a girl that is.”
Minako smiled and forced herself to sit up. She knew that there was no way she could beat a young man reaching the peak of his physical fitness. Science just wasn’t on her side, but knowing she had his respect was enough.
“That actually means a lot. Thank you.” Minako did her best to heave herself to her feet. “We better get back. I’ve got some errands to run with Junpei later on. We’re out of everything so I need some extra hands.”
Akihiko’s face went blank of all previous mirth, instead replaced with a default frown.
“Are you okay?” Minako asked, reaching out a hand. She gave him a Cheshire grin to lighten the mood. “Don’t tell me you’re tired. What happened to all that bravado?”
He shook his head and through on what seemed to be a reassuring expression. Without complaint, he accepted her help. “Forget about it, it’s nothing.” Once on his feet, he took the lead towards the dorm. “Let’s take it easy and walk. We went far today.”
Minako jogged to his side, shoving her hands in her sweatshirt pouch. Her fingers were cold from exposure to the cool spring air. Winter seemed to still linger just a few weeks over its expiration date.
For most of the walk back, they fell into a comfortable silence. The only noise between them was their soft footfalls on the sidewalk. Minako took the time to appreciate the silence that came with the morning. Street lights flickering out one by one, houses bathed in the pastel colors of dawn, and tune of crickets all filled her senses with a feeling of tranquility. Even the distant howls of dogs seemed to sing the praises of a new day about to begin.
It was moments like this that she had a hard time describing. How could one overthink such simple things like a lone bird’s melody or stars being swept away with the navy blue blanket of the sky?
All in all, it was one of the few things that never failed to give her shivers.
They had almost reached the dorm when Minako grew more and more concerned about Akihiko’s silence. He stared ahead as if in a deep haze, fists shoved in his pockets with arms tensed to strike out at a second’s notice.
Just a few minutes ago, they were laughing and having fun, now he was guarded.
What had changed in such a short amount of time?
Minako gathered herself with an easy breathe. “Are you okay? You look like you’re gonna punch someone,” she noted. “Are you still in pain? Sick?”
“No-!” Akihiko was quick to deny her, but soon calmed himself when he saw her flinch at his knee-jerk reaction. “-sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. . . just thinking too hard.”
Minako went a few paces ahead of him so she could turn around and walk backward. She tried to give him her most gentle smile, hoping to ease his stiffness. “They say if ya’ talk things out, thinking’s a lot easier. I’m a really good listener, so fire away!”
He tried to look away from her, but she knew it was impossible. It was her secret weapon: kill them with kindness and face aversion head-on. Just to add some comfort, exude an inviting presence that no one could simply ignore. Such a tactic worked every time, even with the most stubborn of people.
Finally, he sighed while rubbing the back of his neck. “It’s. . . I don’t wanna come off as nosey, but I got a question.”
Minako urged him on with a quirk of an eyebrow. “That question being?”
“It’s a bit personal-” He seemed to be stuttering over his words as they came to mind, “-And if you don't want to tell me, then you don't have to.”
“It's just. . . Is it true you're going out with Junpei?”
Minako felt her heart skip a beat.
Where had this come from all of a sudden?
At first, she started giggling to herself a the notion. The more she thought about it, the more hilarious it became. Her giggles turned into laughter, her worries melting away at such a silly idea.
“What the heck? No, nonono. He’s like a lil’ brother to me. I wouldn’t date him in a million years.” Minako said.
“What. . .?” Akihiko seemed to mull over the revelation before his mind finally caught up to his ears. His shoulders sagged. “I see, it was just a rumor I heard. Guess I just jumped to conclusions too fast. Sorry.”
A rumor? This late in the year? Usually, such things spread early and died off like mayflies once her character had been fully evaluated. It was no surprise that someone as popular Akihiko would hear the latest news on the strange transfer students.
Minako sighed but was far from angry at him. “Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m fine. You were curious, so ya’ asked.” She started walking again, this time facing forward again. “Tramp, returning drop-out, foreigner: I’ve had enough rumors spread about me to last a lifetime. At least you asked me about it.”
“Still, It's bad enough that I listened to a rumor, but then I confronted you about it. It was incredibly rude of me.” He shook his head, a frown taking the place of shame. “If I hear anyone say that again, I'll tell them it's not true. I hate rumors.”
“Amen to that.” Minako yawned, savoring the cool air in her lungs. “I’m just glad someone’s looking out for lil’ old me.”
Akihiko went wide-eyed for a moment before ducking his head.
“W-we should get something on our way home.” He looked up to see they had already arrived at the steps of the dorm. “Oh, we're back. That’s a bummer, guess we’ll have to make something here. Any ideas?”
Minako perked up, her runner’s mindset flung into the corner of her brain. "How 'bout something sweet?" she bemused. The creative side kicked in as recipe after recipe danced around, waiting to be pulled out and put to good use.
They went back inside to begin their day, chatting back and forth about the rest of the day.
Me: yo, wat’s ur midterm score?
Baneofmyexistance: i got in the top 3 in class! top 10 in the grade!
Baneofmyexistance: kirijo-san’s impressed, take dat!
Me: *slow clap*
Me: reel cute
Baneofmyexistance: don’t u dare
Me: wanna hear wat i got?
Baneofmyexistance: i swear if u even
Me: I got #1 in class, top 3 in grade
Baneofmyexistance: . . .
Baneofmyexistance: :P jerk
“I can’t believe the new guy scored the highest in the class! He’s so quiet.”
“No wonder he’s friends with Yukari-san. Does anyone have his phone number?”
“Then why’s he hanging out with an idiot like Iori?”
Minato was never one to brag about test scores unless it was with his sister. Bragging, in his father’s words, meant less time hitting the books and becoming even smarter than the minute before. Of all the things the man had said, that advice stuck with him long after he had died.
Besides, actions speak far louder than words. Actions are seen, then the common folk speak of it for days on end, you can make yourself known without coming off as arrogant.
But even Minato had his times of selfishness.
“Wow, Minato-kun.” Yukari perched herself on his desk as their classmates continued to fawn over the ego-boosted teen. “I knew you were smart, but you got the top spot and placed in the top three in our grade. Mitsuru’s gotta give you something pretty nice. How’d you do it so easily?”
Minato had to sit sideways to give the two of them a respectful distance. “I work hard, simple as that.”
A disheartened groan brought the pair’s attention to Junpei. He slumped over his desk with his cap clutched in his hands. If one had been a casual onlooker, they might have thought his world had ended.
“Man, I'm a laughing stock. . .” His voice cracked with the raw emotion of defeat. “After the results were posted, I heard these two cute girls talking. They were sayin' I have a one-track mind. . . If I beg for a higher score, will I get one? How much money does it take to bribe a teacher?”
Minato felt a twinge of sympathy. After all, Junpei was street smart, not exactly the studious type. He worked well with his hands rather than learning from a chalkboard. Being denigrated by his female counterparts was just another nail in an open casket being hurtled into oncoming traffic.
“Look on the bright side!” Yukari seemed to be genuinely concerned at the boy’s plight for a sliver of a second. “You got perfect marks in physical education. Girls like guys who work out, right? Who needs brains when you’ve got brawn?”
Junpei still remained downtrodden, sinking lower into his desk. “I’m gonna die alone.”
Poor, stupid Junpei. When will his suffering end?
“Heard ya’ got the best score in your class. Congratulations, twig.”
Minato truly enjoyed Kendo practice with Kazushi around, but the constant teasing of his less than muscular frame was getting on his nerves. He ended up chucking his water bottle at the smug athlete’s head in an attempt to shut him up for a change. “Yeah, how’d you do, big nose?”
Kazushi caught the bottle with expert precision and an eye-roll. “Leave the insults to the rest of us. You’re terrible at it.” He set the bottle aside and picked up his bamboo blade that leaned against his side. “Alright, one more round then we’ll call it. Ya’ ready, or should I wait so you can look up a better comeback?”
The question about his test scores had been easily dodged. Typical Kazushi, ever the thorn in Minato’s side yet a welcome one. He cracked his knuckles and picked up his own blade.
“Doesn’t take a genius to make fun of you.” Minato said.
“‘Cause the genius can’t come up with anything good!” Kazushi crowed and squared up for a face-off. “Enough talk. Show me what you’re made of.”
They went through all the proper rites of a challenge before taking a defensive stance to one another. At first, they circled each other in waiting for someone to strike. Minato could feel the sweat from the day’s workout rolling down his neck.
He was convinced the enemy could sense his exhaustion.
Finally, he decided to break the stalemate with a rush towards Kazushi’s gauntlets, a few cheap points, but points all the same. The latter swiped his blade aside and shuffled in to get the former on the head. Thankfully, Minato jumped back in time to avoid the hit.
Kazushi had overestimated the strength needed for his strike. His blade made contact with the practice mat and created a resounding "bang." Minato prepared for him to make a swift recovery or charging forward for a fake-out.
However, Kazushi didn’t raise himself back up.
He was frozen in place.
For a few moments, Minato stood at the ready for an attack that would never come. Once he realized that Kazushi wasn’t moving, he lowered his blade. He started towards him with an outstretched hand for the shoulder.
“Hey, you okay-”
Before Minato could finish, Kazushi toppled to the floor. His body landed with an almost sickening thunk.
“Kaz!” someone shouted from across the gym.
“C’mon, we’re counting on you to be captain next year! You’ve gotta take care of yourself.”
“The big meet will be here before we know it, but that doesn’t excuse pushing it past your limits with gimp lungs.”
Minato listened to various teammates dot over Kazushi in the nurse’s office. He stood by the door and watched on as everyone flocked like a pack of squawking seagulls. The future captain kept his mouth shut, but his creased brow and narrowed gaze spoke a million words.
Annoyance seemed to be a theme of the day.
“Alright, boys!” The coach, who had been speaking with the attending nurse, waved the boys out of the room. “Shower off and go home. You’re gonna stink up the entire room if ya’ keep this up!”
Everyone filed out one-by-one, all chattering about Kazushi. Minato stepped aside and ignored their mindless speech, not wanting to get involved with such frivolous talk. There was only so much gossip one could tolerate in one day, good or bad.
“Arisato! Stay here a second.” Minato turned to see his coach standing by Kazushi. “Take this guy home.” He gave the student a well-natured pat on the back. “Don’t wanna wake up tomorrow and find him on the morning news. Can I trust ya’ with his crazy butt?”
Kazushi seemed to shrink at the comment, but again, remained silent. Had his asthma messed him up more than what was led on?
Minato looked between him and the coach.
He was going to be late for dinner.
“Sure,” he answered, “I’ve got time.”
The coach beamed. “Alright,” he left the nurse’s office with a tip of the hat, “I’m counting on ya’. Have a good night you two.”
Kazushi followed the coach but stopped once he got to Minato. “Jeez, glad that’s over.” He glanced over with a grin. “Better get going before rush hour. I live downtown; it’s a nightmare around this time. Good thing we changed out of our uniforms before everyone else, eh?”
Minato gave him a nod. “Yeah, can’t complain about that.”
The two started on their journey home, silence the only thing between them. It was nothing that Minato found to be strange. Kazushi never seemed like the walk-and-talk guy, keeping his interactions constrained to cheesy one-liners and gruff encouragement. In fact, he hummed a tune with a contented smile.
Still, his face while the team was around was a puzzle all its own.
When they reached the outside entrance to the school, Minato had popped in an earphone and started up his more energetic playlist. His fingers drummed on the strap of his school bag. The sunset hit the teammates full-on in a bright display of red and orange. Boats on the water were mere shadows gliding on a film of dark blue.
Kazushi suddenly dropped back after only a few steps. He had stopped a good three strides away from his escort. Had he gotten winded from walking halfway across the school? Was everything really fine?
Minato adapted the new development and put the brakes on himself. “Hey, what’s up?”
Kazushi’s face screwed up as if he were about to scream. He had to take a few breaths before he even faced up to the question.
“I-. . .” he began. “. . . I’ve got something to say, but the other guys can’ find out.” He glanced up from the ground with a deadly serious frown. “If I tell you, ya’ won’t say anything, will ya’? There are a lot of nosy guys on the team. If they find out, they'll keep bugging me about it. I don’t need that right now.”
Minato shoved his hands in his pocket. “You’re asking the quietest person on Earth to keep a secret. I think you’re golden.”
Kazushi loosened up at the quip but remained rigid in his posture. “Truth is . . . my knee hasn't felt right,” he admitted. “I’ve had trouble in the past, but since that day you first came to practice, it’s gotten worse. Seems like I’m fighting you and my leg at the same time, I just can’t keep up some days.”
A knee injury, the bane of all professional athletes. Minato had a few run-ins, but never to the point of having to keep quiet on the matter. That would imply that the damage would be permanent.
All this time, he never saw past the joking smile.
“Will it heal?”
Kazushi sighed, staring past Minato at the city skyline. “Next year, there's a national competition. There will be participants from all over Japan. The regional meet pales in comparison.” he mused aloud. “I have to win at that meet if I wanna go places on the pro circuit. I can't afford to put my training on hold. Not now, not unless I say so!”
Minato knew that the passion Kazushi held was pure, but he couldn’t help but chuckle at his dramatic monologue. He blamed his sister for ruining them for the rest of his life for everyone else.
“I get it, I get it. Not a peep.” he said with a thumbs up. “ Just stop talking like you’ve got a camera rolling twenty-four seven. We’re not in a soap opera.”
Kazushi shrugged but softened at the reassurance. “Thanks, man. I knew I could trust ya’.”
Baneofmyexistance: yooooooo soap’s on!!!!!!!
Baneofmyexistance: dinner’s over, where r u?
Baneofmyexistance: we’re goin hunting 2nite
Baneofmyexistance: are you okay?
Me: srry, I’ll be back soon
Me: Pls tell me it’s just the main sqwad 2nite
Baneofmyexistance: guess whos back in action :D
Me: . . . y does god h8 me?
Me: if I get electrocuted, someone gonna gets stabbed
A bright flash later, the swift Persona bowled straight into a large group of Heat Balances, tossing them into the air. All six of them landed in a scattered mess across the purple tiled floor of Arqa block, allowing Hermes to beat a hasty retreat to its summoner. Their singular eyes were spinning as they tried to hop back up for a second attack.
“Strike, yer’ out!”
Minako grinned at an ecstatic Junpei and pointed to the recovering enemy. “Yukari, Sanada, finish ‘em off!”
“Got it, Minako-senpai!” Yukari aimed her Evoker with sights set on the target. “Io!”
“Polydeuces!” Akihiko commanding voice carried without having to yell out like most of the others.
Io appeared next to the newest addition to the SEES’s Persona lineup. A robust humanoid with blonde hair that flowed with each precise movement, right arm replaced with a syringe-like javelin, it seemed to exert its own supernatural pressure over the room. With a stoic face to boot, the Shadows quivered at their inevitable fate.
A column of wind followed up with raging lightning drew out anguished cries from the Balancing Scales. Some tried to escape, but Io’s spell had them pulled into the thick of the brutal assault.
Just as quickly as it had begun, the Garu and Zio spell stopped. Screams ceased alongside and left a gaping hole of silence. The blue and red crosses were lifeless on the ground until fading into black dust, then disappearing in mid-air. Left behind were glowing blue cards strewn in all manner of directions.
Minako smiled at the path ahead. A flight of stair was now accessible with all Shadows in the immediate area taken care of, a metal case also visible from where she stood.
“Excellent work, everyone.” Mitsuru commented, voice cool as per usual. “I sense a great presence on the next floor, but I have no doubts you will prevail. Proceed at your own discretion and there shouldn’t be any trouble.”
“Thanks, Kirijo-san. Keep in touch.” Minako stepped forward to examine the cards more closely. She kneeled down and picked up one with an unfamiliar Persona: a Unicorn that was white as the driven snow.
Although it hadn’t been an issue before, Minato and herself gained new summons from defeated Shadows. At first, they would naturally gravitate towards them like a moth to a flame, but now that the challenges were mounting, cards were dropped instead. Both of the siblings, including other members of SEES, could only choose one from the group while the rest vanished. Of course, there were other images on the cards, such as power-ups for previously gained summons and money, but the Personas were something Minako had taken upon herself to gain.
It was all based on curiosity. She wanted to see how many there were to gather.
“Those cards again?” Junpei came bounding over and picked up one with a money symbol. It dissolved in his palms, leaving behind yen coins and a wicked smile. “Ah man, I love this place! Why can’t money just appear like this in real life?”
“I suspect the cards formed as a result of external factors. Items can often get lost in the Dark Hour and take on different forms depending on the object.” Mitsuru explained. “Ikutsuki and the other researchers that work with us have yet to confirm such things as the cards are only temporarily manifested. However, the evidence points to that theory being true.”
“I don’t care where they came from.” Junpei shoved the money in his back pocket. “Papa needs a new video game!”
Yukari had picked up one such card with rounded leaves: a growth card. “I’ll take this one.” she said, crushing the card in her hand, engulfing it in a green glow.
Akihiko tentatively grabbed a similar card, only to watch it become part of him. “A little extra experience never hurt anyone.”
Minako turned back to her card and held it out in front of her. She closed her eyes and focused on calling out to the horned animal. “Thou art I, therefore I am thou.” Her fingers closed around the image as a warm sensation filled her chest, signifying her call had been heard. “What shall I name you?”
The reply came in the voice of a beautiful woman. “Unicorn, legendary beast of purity.” The warmth dwindled, but a new presence took residence within Minako’s heart. “I shall protect you and those you deem worthy, young warrior. All you need is ask.” Unicorn settled well with the other Personas, not causing much of a stir.
Minako retracted her arm just as Minato had approached her side. He held of growth card that began to dissolve. “What’s with you and Personas?” he asked, green light-absorbing into his pale skin. “Doesn’t it get cramped? I can barely hold three and you’ve got, what, ten?”
Minako shrugged. “Dunno, it’s not that hard once ya’ get used to it.” She knocked on her skull. “Besides, it’s hard to forget something that’s a part of you.”
“Ugh, too sappy. I think I’m gonna choke.” Minato staggered away from her. “If you had time to come up with that, you had time to get a better score on midterms.”
“Says the dork who got first.”
“Exactly. Step up your game.”
“I hate to interrupt, but we should get moving.” Yukari piped in, the other two boys following close behind. “The Dark Hour will be over before we know it so we shouldn’t waste any more time just standing around.”
“Astute.” Minako rightened herself and sunk back into leadership mode. “Now then, for those who haven’t fought floor bosses with us before, let’s go over a few quick things.” She pointed to the floor above. “We don’t have a clue what’s waiting upstairs so play it safe. I want the boys focused on physical attacks unless we’ve got a flyer, then protect Yukari and use long-range spells. I’ll deal with healing and support for most of the battle, but if things get rough, regroup on me and try again. Any questions?”
There was a mix of shaking heads and no’s.
“Good, I’d say we’re ready.” Minako twirled her naginata so it would rest against her shoulder. “After this, let’s go back. We’ve already made some great progress tonight.”
The team’s spirits picked up at the praise and everyone started towards the stairs. Their leader dropped back to give herself some time to think through her strategy.
So far, there were no glaring concerns in anyone’s health. She could start putting buffs on the team right away and maybe get some fighting experience on her part. If she needed to conserve energy for summoning and casting spells, Mitsuru was gracious enough to pack freshly stocked medkits before they headed out for the night. Yukari could also take over if she wasn’t needed for the front lines, but those bases were more than covered.
Two proficient heavy attackers, one exemplary healer, and two adaptable Wild Cards made for a fine set-up. If they kept rotating around each other, fatigue wouldn’t be an issue.
The five teens climbed the patchy staircase up to the next floor. For the most part, the large open area was devoid of enemies but only one hallway led out into the darkness.
Cries of unfamiliar Shadows carried from beyond a blind corner.
“I sense three powerful Shadows, but I have no worries you’ll be just fine. Still, do not underestimate the enemy.”
Minako nodded, more to convince herself rather than the rest of her comrades as they walked towards the noise. “Copy that, Kirijo-san.” She brought her naginata to a defensive position as they rounded the corner. “Let’s make this quick.” came as more of a mummer above her thrumming heartbeat.
Down the hallway, just as predicted, three Shadows lay in waiting. They took after tables with checkerboard cloths and blue masks etched deep with sulking mouths. Each had black arms with various flaming kitchen tools: skillets, knives, and forks to name the ones Minako could see.
When she locked eyes with the frontrunner of the trio, loud war cries followed by the Shadows charging straight at them.
Minako reacted on instinct and grabbed her Evoker. “Naga! Rakukaja!” The snake-like Persona appeared at her call. It raised its spear over the other four members of SEES and developed them in blue light. “Everybody move!”
Junpei and Minato reacted in tandem, flanking either side of the hall and pulling their own Evokers.
Hermes and the holy fighter, Arcangel appeared and charged the tables. Fire and metal clashed in a mix of heat and screeching weapons bounced off the walls. Both Personas were thrown back at Minato and Junpei, easily bested as the assault of the enemy continued.
“Fire ain’t working, Minatan!” Junepi yelled as he engaged a table head-on. He held it back with shaking arms for only a second before being thrown backward. “SHIT!”
Minato had encountered the same fate, his slash attacks with his sword doing nothing to deter his own opponent. Thankfully, he landed on his feet and played the evasion game to keep himself safe. “They’re resisting pierce attacks.” He avoided a frying pan being thrown at his head. “We’ve gotta try something else!”
Akihiko rushed to help Junpei as soon as he went down. As he did, his Evoker was raised. “Zio!”
Polydeuces created a barrier between the sub-boss and the downed junior. As it used its body as a shield, it let off a strong pulse of electricity, pushing the Shadow back to give Junpei enough time to escape. The spell actually had a decent effect.
“I’ll take care of this guy!” he yelled, pointing to a struggling Minato. “Help him!”
“Got it, senpai!” Junpei clambered to his feet and did as he asked. Hermes was summoned promptly, using bowling into the table as it was about to start throwing more objects. The Persona took a beating but remained as a trusty roadblock.
“Io!” Yukari’s Persona jumped into the fray with wind running wild on the third table that had barely taken damage up until now. Her spells also had a more desirable effect than Junpei or Minato, unfortunately, they weren’t miraculous by any stretch of the imagination.
Yukari shrieked as the flaming table grew extremely hostile and started throwing its contents at her. “Someone help!”
Minako had been healing the boys up when she heard the distressed archer’s call. She changed gears and rushed to the younger girl’s side, ignoring a growing pit of debility in her body. “Naga!” she called again, the creature launching a bolt of lightning at the table and stating off the projectiles that threatened to harm Yukari. A sense of relief washed over the leader as she redirected herself to fighting beside Takeba for the time being, as she was starting to grow oddly pale from the excessive use of Garu spells.
“Minako-san, we can’t keep this up!” Yukari yelled as the leader joined her with electric spell support. “I’m feeling tired. Akihiko-senpai and I have been carrying things all night. At this rate, we’ll have to retreat.”
It didn’t take Minako long to take in those words and begin to access the current situation of the battle.
Akihiko and Minato had doubled up on Zio attacks, but Minato’s summon was severely under par compared with the much more seasoned Polydeuces. Junpei assisted his constant partner while the senior took on one Shadow by himself. With Yukari and Minako tied up on one themselves, things on the battlefield were uneven.
They had been so focused on working on diversifying their spell types that both Wild Cards neglected the idea that they would need to jump on at a moment’s notice.
Minako grit her teeth but forced herself to remain rational. Negative thoughts only led to ruin and thus she had to restructure her plan.
Yukari and Akihiko were more than capable with wind and electricity, but they had been the on the offensive all night. They could give out at any second if they didn’t start spreading their forces. Minato and Junpei were both fire users, but a fire was out questioned. The former was also keen on buffing spells, wind, and darkness while Minako knew primarily light and buffing spells.
The only other remarkable thing she knew were ice attacks. . .
That was it!
“I have an idea!” Minako drew her Evoker and envisioned her main ice attacker. “Jack Frost!”
The snowman Persona bumbled to life with scarf fluttering lively in the air. It giggled into its hands, opened them to the enemy, and sent a thick white cloud. Towards the table in front of the two girls.
As soon as the cloud touched it, the table screamed out and dropped its juggled items. The black arms protruding from under the checkered cloth writhed to reach out in vain. Flames that once seemed to keep it safe from melee attacks vanished in wisps of smoke and steam.
“Now’s our chance!” Minako rushed forward with Yukari following close behind. “Hurry before the frost clears out!” The senior leaped into the cloud, goosebumps from the cold didn’t stop her from landing on top of the table while swinging her naginata down like a bludgeoning club. The blue mask cracked like brittle clay, scattering across the floor, the frown twisted and broken.
“My turn!” Yukari didn’t bother with knocking an arrow, deciding to whack the Shadow in the same fashion as her leader. “Take that!”
The Shadow was overwhelmed instantly. It only took a few more strikes before the white frost was swept away, the table along with it.
Both girls stopped attacking to catch their breath.
“W-we. . . did it.” Yukari breathed, a smile forming on her face. “We found its weakness.”
“GAH!” A pained scream pulled them out of the moment. Minako looked up to see Minato and Junpei struggling to suppress their own enemy. The flames on their table had grown only stronger as if to intimidate them into submission.
Minako wasted no time pulling her Evoker. “One more time!” Jack Frost bounced happily over to the boys, sending another cloud their way. Just like the first Shadow, it went down with flames all burned out. “Thanks, Minatan!” Junpei called before jumping on the Shadow. “Get back here ya’ son of a-!” Minato followed close behind before the two had been hidden from sight by the frosty cover.
“Little help over here!” Akihiko called from his side of the hall. He seemed to have exhausted all his energy to summon Polydeuces, instead of ducking and weaving in a futile effort to get away from his enemy. His clothes appeared to be charred around his boxing gloves. from failed attempts to do as much.
“Stay here Yukari!” Minako commanded and willed her feet to move as fast as they would go. She had to sidestep a fork that had been aimed directly at her foot. “Watch it buster, Jack Frost!”
For an encore performance, Jack Frost took a more direct approach to beat the Shadow once and for all. It belly-flopped onto the table with a gleeful “He HO!” and caused the legs underneath to give way. A piece of blue mask went sailing against the wall with a gratifying smash.
“Good snowman!” Minako could not help but laugh at the comical scene. “Come on back, boy!” Jack Frost hopped back to her side before vanishing. It had left behind one final frost cloud and a broken enemy that made no attempts to get back up.
Minako twirled her polearm with overzealous flare as she approached the fallen Shadow. She caught the base of the weapon and cocked it back like a baseball bat. “Say la vie!”
With all her might, she sliced upward and the Shadow howled as its underbelly was exposed. Her naginata had also made a clean cut right down the middle, adding insult to injury. The wood splintered as it was barely holding together.
“My turn!” A red and white blur, no doubt a recovered Akihiko, had slipped behind her and took advantage of the situation. The Shadow was thrown back by a vigorous punch meant to shatter bones, break concrete, and destroy monsters of the night. Before it could even hit the ground, the Shadow was torn in half from the previous cut and faded into blackened smoke, no longer the threat it once was.
Minako used her naginata as support, arms were thoroughly worn out from the tough fight. Her final attack had taken most of her energy and had been meant as such. She was simply glad she could see straight.
“I’m not getting up tomorrow.” she thought to herself bitterly.
“Yahoo!” she heard Junpei holler from across the hall. His sword was raised in triumph over a fading Shadow carcass. “That’s whatcha get, ya’ oversized tea sets!”
Minato and Yukari shook their heads at the terrible comparison. “Stupei, this is why you’re still single.”
“Hey! I thought you and I were getting along! What gives?”
“You opened your mouth!”
“Could you two stop yelling? I’ve got a headache.”
“Shut up, Minato!”
“Hey! Stop yelling at him, ya’ harpy!”
Minako sighed as the three juniors went off on one another. “Here we go again.” She guessed there would never be peace between them, but at least they appeared to be fine if they had the energy to bicker. That was all that mattered in the long run.
“Looks like everyone’s alright.” she heard Akihiko chuckle at their antics. He soon was at her side, arms crossed and taking in the scene before them. “How do you put up with these three?”
“I don’t know, Sanada.” Minako found some strength to right her posture. “Maybe I’m just that patient.”
The two shared a good laugh, not knowing that Minato was glaring daggers at Akihiko. His short sword was clutched tightly as if ready for another battle.
Junpei and Yukari fought all the way back to the dorm tonight (or this morning, I really don’t care anymore). Mitsuru tried to get them to stop yelling but gave up after they ignored her the fifth time. I swear to whatever god who reads this, I’d give you my right foot if I could just get some peace and quiet.
Then there’s the asshole known simply as Akihiko Sanada. Guess what he said when I got back to the dorm: “Where’ve you been?" First of all, fuck you, you’re not my real dad. Just because you’re kinda friends with my sister, doesn’t suddenly make you MY brother.
That’s another thing, he’s awfully keen on spending time with Minako. I turn my back for two minutes and I see those two laughing at something really stupid. I don’t know what he wants, but he can fuck right off if he thinks he can just waltz in and try to get to know her like he’s actually invested in her wellbeing.
No, more like build up favors.
Minako's already got her own shit to deal with. She’s too kind for her own good. I might not be the best brother ever, but hell if I don’t at least try to look out for my own.
I need to get those two away from each other, stat. He’s got bad news written all over his “perfect” ass.
Ugh, just thinking about him makes my headache worse. I hope he gets beaten into a coma so I never see him again.