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Title: Reach Out (Part 5) - Curses
Fandom: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
Characters: Yosuke with the rest of the surviving Investigation Team + spoilers. Pairings are Souji/Yosuke (in the past), implied Chie/Yukiko and Kanji/Naoto.
Summary: AU, pseudo-fill for [livejournal.com profile] badbadbathhouse; details in the notes for the first part, here.

Souji has fallen in battle, and the rest of the team moves on without him, with Yosuke taking up the job of leader. They manage to catch the killer and continue on with their lives as best they can, but as time moves on, they begin to question if everything is truly resolved...

Notes: This will spoil you in the face for the true ending. This is part five of ten.




As the goddess towers over them, Yosuke calls Susano-o - but not to attack, not yet. His job is to protect them all, as much as he can, and the Persona lends his power to the task. It's Chie who will have the first blow, and she measures up their opponent with narrowed eyes before sending Suzuka Gongen forth. As the Persona swings her weapon at Izanami, Yosuke realizes he's holding his breath - but the blow lands, and the goddess flinches involuntarily.

"Yes! We can hurt her!" Rise's voice is jubilant, relieved, and Yosuke starts breathing again.

"Then we have a chance," he says grimly, then grits his teeth as Izanami retaliates with a sharp shockwave that nearly knocks them all down.

Things blur together after that. The battle is a cautious, deliberate exercise in balancing offense and defense; Izanami is without a doubt the most dangerous opponent they've ever faced. The best they can do is whittle away at her with all their strength. Chie is an angry powerhouse, pouring everything she has into her Persona's physical attacks; Kanji follows each of Suzuka Gongen's blows with a powerful strike of his own. Yukiko's healing is incredibly attentive, almost - but not quite - to the point of being overkill. Yosuke understands why without having to ask.

Yosuke's own job is a little different. As with their fight against Ameno-sagiri, he feels almost at one remove. While he and Susano-o deal as much damage as any of the others, sending powerful blasts of wind searing into Izanami's face, part of him constantly observes the shifts in the tide of battle as Rise feeds him information. It's a little dizzying, giving orders - but he's rather proud of how well they're holding their own, considering.

Still, the goddess is no pushover; she gives better than she gets, and they're all knocked down and battered more than once. They might be hurting her, but it's only a little at a time, and she is most definitely hurting them. They're all flagging by the end, slowing down - but they're so close.

"Only a little more!" Rise says, tension evident in her tone. "Go, go, go!"

Chie's next strike doesn't quite manage it, to her frustration, so it's Kanji who steps forward to deal the deathblow, a serious expression on his face as his Persona materializes in front of him. "That's it - you're goin' down, right now! Take this, you damn freak!"

It's not exactly a brilliant line, but that doesn't matter. Lightning shocks through Izanami's form, and they all lean forward, tensing, waiting-

"Did you intend to defeat me with such feeble strength?" Her tone is light, mocking, and sends chills shooting down Yosuke's spine.

"It ain't workin'?!" Kanji stares slack-jawed for a moment, then calls Rokuten Maoh again. Maybe it was a fluke, maybe Rise was underestimating - but, as before, the bolt seems to have no effect. "Senpai! Bitch ain't goin' down!"

"She... she shouldn't be able to...! There's nothing left! Let me try scanning her again-" Rise splutters, obviously trying not to panic.

"C-can you kill a goddess?" is the only thing Yosuke can think of to say, as Yukiko follows up with a desperate explosion of flame that clearly connects, but just as clearly doesn't do a damn thing.

"How should I know?!"

Okay, okay, don't freak out- Yosuke makes himself take a deep breath, then calls Susano-o with a single sweep of his kunai. His own Persona shimmers into being above him, and he watches with clenched fists as Susano-o sends a powerful blast of wind directly at Izanami's head.

Nothing.

Damnit-

Izanami chuckles. "Can you not understand? It is impossible to defeat me. You cannot atone so easily for your foolish pride-" and then a burst of energy drowns her words as Suzuka Gongen lunges into her. The goddess flinches, and for a moment Yosuke's breath catches in his throat, hoping - but no, it doesn't goddamn work. "You understand nothing, I see," Izanami hisses as the Persona vanishes. "Ignorant mortals!"

The goddess' next attack nearly drops them all to the ground, and Yosuke staggers, his vision blurring. This isn't... we can't... damnit...

"Chie-senpai needs help!" Rise shouts, but Yosuke just stares blankly up at Izanami. "Yosuke-senpai?!"

It's very faint, but past Rise's desperate cries, there's another voice in his head - not his Persona, but something else. Someone else.

This is a crystal of power which you have all nurtured during your journey, an orb that repels fabrications of all sorts, dispels lies, and shines upon the truth. Though it has passed through many hands, it remains whole.

Yosuke blinks; Rise is still calling his name, but that doesn't seem important as the voices of the Velvet Room's occupants ring through his memory.

Truth is a thing which only appears to those who have observed, considered, and made a choice. At the end of the path you chose lies the truth. Believe in it, and continue without faltering.

There's something in front of his unfocused eyes, a curl of mist in the air that seems brighter, different. Yosuke reaches out for it as if summoning Susano-o, and the second his hand touches it, it coalesces - the bright orb from that afternoon, from the Velvet Room. As his fingertips tap the surface, the orb floats upwards, out of reach.

It bobs in the air, just once, and shatters - and as it breaks, it shines with a light like nothing Yosuke's ever seen before. It's so bright that Yosuke can't possibly look directly at it; he turns away, shielding his eyes with one arm, and he hears the others' startled gasps. "Senpai?!" Rise shouts, frantically.

"It's okay, it's okay, this is good-" Yosuke manages, his heart pounding. Surely this is it, this is the answer. This will finally bring down Izanami and save them all. It has to. Why else give it to him-

The sound of Izanami's mocking laughter is like being stabbed in the gut. A foul, rotting stench washes across them all, like a thousand dead things left to decay in the summer sun.

"Well, then. Allow me to show you my full splendor..."

Yosuke desperately blinks away the afterimages from the orb's glare, then focuses - and abruptly wishes he hadn't. The surge of sheer terror that grips him is like nothing he's ever felt before, save on the day Souji died. He can hardly parse the being in front of him; it's nothing but rotting flesh, innumerable twisted limbs, and a massive, searing power that he can barely comprehend.

"I... am a god," Izanami-no-Okami exults; Yosuke distantly hears somebody retch behind him. "I'll teach you the truth of your minuscule existences."

"L-look out!" Rise gasps in his ear. "We've never seen anything like her!"

We're dead, Yosuke thinks, numbly. This isn't how it was supposed to work, surely the orb's purpose wasn't this, surely-

Somehow, they manage to dodge her first strike, a wild flailing of those rotting limbs that rakes great gashes in the floor. Sheer, primal fear does a lot to speed up even the most exhausted among them. Yosuke's heart pounds wildly as he calls Susano-o forth to grant them all protection, but he's sure, beyond sure, that it's too flimsy to last. Not against something like this. The stench alone is so terrible he can hardly breathe.

"Damnit," he hears Kanji mutter - and then the goddess is on them again with her decaying claws. Yosuke tumbles to the ground as he desperately dodges, but he hears Yukiko scream in pain, a terrible, strangled sound that makes him want to throw up. Distantly, he sees Amaterasu spin into the air, feels the sudden warm wash of the Persona's power healing their injuries. As he staggers to his feet, he glances over at Yukiko; she's still on the ground, white-faced but whole, and Chie is standing between her and the goddess, shaking with rage.

"The stage is already set for your demise," the rotting goddess says. "I'll end your lives here."

"Never," Chie grates, just before a storm of lightning descends from above.

"Senpai!" Kanji shouts; Yosuke can barely think through a haze of pain. Their retalation is clumsy, desperate, and mostly futile; Yukiko heals them as best she can, but the truth is inescapable. This isn't a battle now, not anymore. Izanami-no-Okami is toying with them, a goddess of death bringing them to the brink repeatedly, watching them desperately try to recover before she knocks them back. They get a few hits in, here and there. It's nowhere near enough.

"Such stubbornness," she sighs, as they stagger to their feet again, dragging; Yosuke's dimly aware that he's bleeding. "Such hopeless resistance. The time has come to end this charade."

Oh. That's good, Yosuke thinks, muzzily, then shakes his head as Amaterasu's healing brings a fresh wave of clarity to his thoughts. He grits his teeth, hard. It hurts, but the sharp stab of pain helps too. "Susano-o," he says, thickly, swinging wildly with one hand; his Persona leaps forward, looking ludicrously small under the reaching arms of the goddess. Susano-o's attack makes one of those thin, rotting limbs snap unpleasantly, and Yosuke smiles. It's something.

"Goodbye," Izanami-no-Okami whispers. "Accept the reality of your death."

For a moment, Yosuke thinks he's falling, that everything's just become too much - but no, the ground beneath him is bruising, turning dark and mushy under his feet. He stares, unable to move for sheer terror, as the darkness resolves itself into grasping hands, long dark fingers on the end of waving limbs that flail and reach up for him-

"Not this time," he hears Kanji say, and then he really is falling as something slams into him. Yosuke hits the ground so hard that it knocks the wind out of him, and he doesn't properly register what's happened until Rise gasps in horror.

"Kanji-kun! No!"

Yosuke jerks upright, staring - and there's Kanji, standing where Yosuke had been only a moment ago. He pushed me out of the way- The dark hands wrap around Kanji's limbs, dragging him down into the abyss. For one moment Kanji meets Yosuke's gaze.

And then, with a rattling groan, he's gone.

"Kanji!" Rise screams, and Yosuke dimly hears another strangled cry. Naoto, he realizes dully; the shimmer of a healing spell bursts over where Kanji had been standing, but he knows it's futile, just as it was with Souji.

The goddess looms over them, her clawlike hands outstretched. "It's unfortunate that our battle must end this way... but I did warn you. Such temerity," she sighs, and then the ground beneath Yosuke begins to blacken once more.

He tries to scramble away, mind numb with horror, then sees Chie lunging towards him and stops, flinging his arms up in a sharp gesture of negation. "No," he all but screams at her, and she skids to a halt, eyes wide with fear. "Get away from me!" Because he can see it in his mind's eye, a living nightmare; all his friends knocking into him one after another, until he's alone and he's watched all of them die, from Souji down to Teddie, and for what?

He isn't special enough to deserve that. He's not Souji.

"No," he manages, again, meeting Chie's horrified gaze, trying to make her understand.

Her confusion lasts just long enough. The next instant there are freezing dark fingers wrapped around him, their tips digging roughly into his skin, and for a moment he's actually relieved as the ground begins to swallow his legs. Thank goodness, now she won't- and then it starts hurting, pain eating away at him from the inside out, and he can't breathe, can't think, can't-

"Yosuke!" Rise shrieks, and then everything's gone.



Part 6

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August 2012

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