Cutscene: The Will of the Wisps
No one ever knew that anything was wrong with him because
Hikaru is odd.
This is hardly even worth mentioning; of course Hikaru is odd. Hikaru has been odd since he arrived. He's quirky. Off-beat. A little weird. Hikaru is Hikaru, after all!
So when Hikaru is odd, it goes beneath notice; it's probably just another part of his strangeness. If he seems a little self-centred, well, he's always put himself in the centre of the room -- it makes sense if he's pulling in the spotlight. Right? And it makes sense that he goes out clubbing, and probably even the rumours about your friend's cousin having a fling with him make sense. His persona is kind of indicative of that sort of thing.
Hikaru is odd. Hikaru owns odd and makes it his normal. And that's a perfectly noble thing to do, except...
... when Hikaru acts odd, how is anyone supposed to notice?
So I looked in the mirror and when I saw my face there I
Hikaru is wearing a lime green shirt, with cartoon tropical birds on the breast pocket. It is number seven of his very favourite shirts, and he seems content to remain ignorant of how you're supposed to have one very favourite thing.
He also appears happily ignorant of any concepts of colour, fashion, or proper business attire.
To be fair, that might just be his default expression.
(And it is, really -- because there's very little to be happy about, right now. That's not to say he doesn't find things, or even make them up wholesale, but the world is coming down around their ears right now. He's come to Sumaru in interesting times, as much as he wishes things were peaceful.)
He whistles as he turns into an empty street. Not too far from his apartment, now. The sky is dark, and the moon's high -- but that's the consequence of overtime. At least it's a nice night. Crisp air, and not a supernatural disturbance in sight.
To the building, up the stairs. He unlocks the door to his apartment and steps inside.
"I'm home!", even though there's no one to hear it.
"Welcome back," even though there's no one who could say it.
Hikaru is wearing a violet shirt, with flowers on the lapel. It is number three of his very favourite shirts. He's sitting in his comfiest chair, the one facing the television. He's holding his remote, having just switched it off.
His eyes are sickly yellow, and his smile is too wide.
The first thing Hikaru does is turn to exit through the door again. But he's too fast. He always had been fast, quick instead of strong, clever instead of sturdy. Hikaru grasps his arm, and Hikaru pulls him back into the room.
And Hikaru smiles, and Hikaru pales.
"This isn't-- this doesn't make any sense. Have I fallen into the television world as well...?"
"It would be funny to make you think so. I was considering it. See, I had the TV up and everything! But... nah. I think it's way more fulfilling to just give it to you straight, seeming as that's such an unfamiliar concept and all."
"Let me go," Hikaru insists, strength returning to his voice as the initial shock recedes.
"I could, I suppose. But that wouldn't be any fun. Aren't you in any way curious? You're me, after all. Or an inferior facsimile. Seriously, all those donuts are gonna make me fat and you need to stop."
He sounds just like Hikaru, irreverent, smiling. If not for the faint shade of malice, he'd sound more like Hikaru than Hikaru does.
He tries to pull away again, but he has a tougher grip then he'd imagined. It makes sense, if he stops to think about it. He had this concept of himself as not very strong, but he is Awakened, after all.
"Let me go!", Hikaru barks, this time, loud instead of firm. The volume in his voice can't quite hide the fear.
Behind him, Tlazolteotl manifests, reaching forward --
And behind him, Tlazolteotl manifests, taking her hand before she can touch her other half. One hand is black; one, white. They are each other's inverse, but their complete lack of colour makes it look like a simple mirror illusion.
They step away from their mortal shells, and almost seem to dance, brushing up against each other. But where one brings showers of dirt and filth, the other attacks the body directly; and where one falters, the other reigns.
Tlazolteotl steps forward to embrace herself, and there is a sick light, a deep, distant humming.
"See? You really can hug people with nuclear arms."
Hikaru's callous quip hardly registers as his will to manifest his soul falters into nothing. He staggers back, against the wall, and he lets himself. He's already weakened.
He's already won.
Hikaru steps forward, and his gaze is hard, now, his smile fading to a scowl in an instant. He reaches out, roughly, to grasp Hikaru by the throat. He knows how much that shakes him, after all. He remembers, too.
"You're just giving up?" Hikaru demands, and he squeezes, just barely. It's satisfying, when Hikaru stiffens, panic he's not quite ready to voice coming through in the way his hands come up to claw at his wrist instead.
"I'm not going to tire myself fighting head-on with someone stronger. That's-- that's not brave. That's just foolish."
"I'm not someone! I'm you! You're me! And what's worse is--," Hikaru's voice drops, from the louder pitch it had crept into. "I know you're justifying your cowardice as the best action you can take. You're doing it right now. I don't have to hear your thoughts to know that. You probably think you can outwit me, don't you?"
Hikaru doesn't answer, for a moment. A moment is all Hikaru needs to go on, tightening his grip.
"You disgust me. And anyway, you're wrong! I'm you. I'm a better you than you ever were. You were a piss-poor me in the first place, always making real good appearances at being a social butterfly but never doing anything which might actually get you in trouble."
"I should kill you right here. No one would miss you. They'd like me a lot better, anyway. Same good looks, zero yellow-bellied platitudes."
"But," Hikaru sighs, finally loosening his grip, letting Hikaru fall to the ground. "You can still be useful for now. You should be happy," he smiles down at himself, pleased once more, as Hikaru rubs at his throat and glares up at him. "Since you're already used to being used, it won't be that hard to adjust, right?"
"You wouldn't," Hikaru says, but his voice is shaky and unsure. "If... if you're me, then you know... you remember. You wouldn't..."
"Wouldn't what? Settle for such a miserable lot? Oh, no, I wouldn't. But back then, I was you, and I have to live with your lousy choices. So yeah -- yeah, I would!"
Hikaru pushes himself up from the ground, suddenly, panic giving his muscles strength as he drives his shoulder into his stomach. And it works. Hikaru falls back, to the ground, in a pile of himself.
Hikaru shoves him down and staggers up, but Hikaru grabs at his shirt as he stares at him with wild, golden eyes. It rrrips, exposing the hannya tattoos which mark his shoulder.
Hikaru stumbles, tries to tear away. Hikaru pulls his legs out from under him. Hikaru comes crashing back down to the ground.
If not for those shirts, or the lack of them, it would be impossible to tell which is which. They're both wearing white slacks, after all. White goes marvelously with pastel.
But in the end, the Hikaru which presses Hikaru to the ground has those same wild eyes, shadow-eyes, yellow and dangerous.
"Look," Hikaru smirks, once he's sat himself firmly down, brushing a hand down Hikaru's cheek. "I'm better at being you then you are. In every way. Don't you get it? You can try and surprise me as much as you want. I'll win, every time."
Hikaru shudders. One arm is trapped, but his other hand pushes him away. "Don't-- don't touch me."
"I don't see how you have a choice," Hikaru muses, trapping his hand in his.
Tlazolteotl manifests again, kneeling beside them. She rests her hand against Hikaru's forehead, and the pain which comes seems mostly like sickness, weighing down on him from his blood and his skin. It sinks into his muscles, and his mind, and he closes his eyes against it. He fights, but the second Tlazolteotl only flickers in reality for a few moments.
She is not as strong as Tlazolteotl is, after all.
And he is not as strong as Hikaru is, after all.
The word is slurred, and quiet, and the sentence never finishes itself. Hikaru slackens under himself, exhaling in a way which sounds, to him, like a sigh of defeat.
"You're not going to tell me what to do any more, friend. I'm assuming control."
Tlazolteotl dissipates as Hikaru stands, reaching down to gather himself up.
"But don't worry. No one will even miss you."
they told you love would break you in
Hikaru is not wearing the seventh of his very favourite shirts, or, indeed, any of his very favourite shirts at all. Hikaru is wearing plain white hospital clothes and slippers, and the first thing which occurs to him when he wakes up and realises that is:
Shit. Someone undressed me while I was out--
A moment later, everything else comes back to him, too, and he sits up on the bed in alarm. It's some kind of containment room; the bare necessities, all stark clinical white, and a door with observation glass as its only window into the outer world. It's tinted on his side, and it's hard to see out from it. But Hikaru stands anyway, and tries.
The door's locked, too.
Hikaru goes back to his bed, and sits down, burying his head in his hands. His brain is pounding, and it's hard to think. Antipsychotics, maybe? Some form of tranquiliser. It feels like he's trying to move through water in a trenchcoat: all drag.
He's been taken here, and he's been locked up, and...
Before Hikaru can complete his sluggish chain of thought, the door unlocks. Opens, and Hikaru walks in.
Hikaru is still wearing his third very favourite shirt, which makes Hikaru think that not too long has passed. Hikaru locks the door behind him, and leans against it, arms folded loosely across his chest.
"I'm sure you have a lot of questions. I don't much care about any of them, personally, but isn't it nice to have someone explain things to you patronisingly as you try and pry your brain away from the drugs swimming in them?"
Hikaru smiles. Hikaru frowns, tries to ignore the insult.
"... where am I?"
"Oh, somewhere quite safe and out-of-the-way, I assure you. 'Defensible positions' are amongst the many things we do better then you fakes, after all."
"C'mon, man. I know the drugs aren't making you that dumb -- that's gotta be your own damn talent. You've had problems with 'another' Department before... well, haven't you?" Hikaru looks down to his nails, tilting them from side to side as he examines their perfect manicure. When he doesn't get his hands so dirty helping everyone, it's much easier to manage. "Did you really think we just disappeared into the aether when we weren't bothering you? Oh, no. That couldn't be further from the truth."
Hikaru feels his heart beating in his throat and Hikaru smiles when he sees it.
"Oh, yes. There'll be much more trouble for you yet. But that's hardly your concern -- you're not ever going to be out there again. You'll have more than enough to handle in here, I assure you."
"What," Hikaru glares at Hikaru, but it is unfocused, blunted. It's too much, trying to process his anger and his fear. He can't tell what drugs these are. He can't think. He repeats the word, has to pause to find the rest of them. "What... do you mean?"
"Did you think I'd keep you alive if I didn't have a use for you? I'm you, after all. You know there's a use for everyone -- everyone's got their clever little stories, the heartbreaks which only you can salve, their particular skills. Oh," Hikaru's smile turns apologetic, gesturing with an upturned palm. "I'm sorry. Was that supposed to be a secret?"
"I'm not like that," Hikaru says. "I'm not."
"I'm not like that! I'm not!" Hikaru repeats his words to him, but his words are higher, mocking. "Give it a rest, Kurosawa. You help people. You fix them. Does that sound more like you?" Hikaru runs a hand through his hair. "You just want to befriend the entire world. Everyone has a story! Is that more to your liking? Because it's full of crap and so are you. You're me, so you're not a total fuckup, but come on. Even your strengths are just lined with shit which I have to deal with now!"
He raises his voice, yells, a finger jabbing in Hikaru's direction. "All those mental gymnastics of yours are in my fucking head!"
Hikaru recoils. He recoils because he recognises the flippancy of the gesture. He's the sort of person who would point to emphasise his words, if they were really that important.
(It just drives the fact home: Hikaru is standing in front of Hikaru. A wrong Hikaru, a sick Hikaru, but Hikaru nonetheless.)
"Anyway," Hikaru huffs, pulling back, brushing at his arm like an offended cat. "You distracted me from your orientation. No - not that one, you halfblooded Korean whore! Your new job." He's back to smiling, and the malice in his smile is the only tie to Hikaru's behaviour just a few seconds earlier.
"If - if you think I'd do anything for you..."
"Oh, I think you will." Hikaru taps at his temple, and smiles. "I'm you, remember? But don't take my word for it," he turns and unlocks the door, mimicking perfectly the tone and treble of a TV salesman, "let's hear it from these satisfied customers!"
The joke falls flat. Hikaru is far too suspicious. And so, Hikaru looks over his shoulder.
"That means get up, prettyboy. You get the grand tour. Or are you going to make me drag you?"
Hikaru doesn't doubt that he would, so he pushes himself to his feet. His head is swimming, but somehow he stays upright as he steps towards Hikaru.
Hikaru takes him out and shows him who he is sharing space with, who are in the other rooms. Patient-san had been a difficult case, guesswork and uncertainties, and they had just been one. Here, some of them are still mostly human, strapped to hospital beds. Still others, bloated and alien, are contained in holding cells. Some have strange apparatus hooked up to them, measuring things Hikaru can't think to place from the glimpses he catches. In one of the rooms, a scientist injects something into a woman's arm.
Hikaru pales, and Hikaru, ever at his side, wraps an arm around his shoulders and speaks close to his ear. "Yes, it's all very horrible, don't you think?"
"You won't get away with this," Hikaru says, and his voice does not only shake with fear, now.
"Hmm. I suppose our little cocktail is doing a number on you, so I'll do you a favour and put two and two together in your place: people are going missing in Sumaru. People are showing up here. People are dying here." Hikaru's voice drops, as if sharing a secret. "And when experiments die, where are we going to get replacements...?"
"They're completely innocent," Hikaru insists, his words coming slow from his mouth. He turns to glare at himself, his teeth flashing as his lips curl back, and his words spill out, spurred on by anger. "They don't have anything to do with this!"
"No, I suppose they don't. Bog standard, these folks. That woman?" Hikaru glances back through the door at the woman, moaning in pain and weakly jerking at her restraints. "I'm pretty sure she was just a florist before we grabbed her. I'm told she won't survive the week unless she's very, very lucky. Maybe the next one on that bed will be an electrician, or a secretary..."
Hikaru is silent. Hikaru smiles, shakes his head.
"But you can fix them, can't you? Hikaru Kurosawa, mending not just hearts and minds but flesh itself. A stupid quality, and one I've discarded -- but it does have its uses, and so do you. See," he strokes his fingers down Hikaru's arm, keeping his eyes on himself, "you patch up these subjects, and we don't have to get more of them. It's simple, isn't it?"
"Can't muster your will on that cocktail, can you? I don't blame you. It must be difficult to string two thoughts together, let alone summon your Persona and fight. Not to worry -- when we need your services, we'll lessen the dose, and your mind should clear up. Temporarily, of course. We can't have you throwing your supernatural weight around, can we?"
"If you think I'm that stupid," Hikaru growls, through grit teeth.
"Oh, but I do! Because, you see, if we tell you to fix someone up, and you try something fishy instead..." Hikaru glances down, across Hikaru's chest, to where his fingers curl around Hikaru's arm. He looks back up, and he smiles, and it's a cruel expression. "If, say, you were to try and use your Persona to get out of here instead of doing what you're supposed to like a good little dog, we'll kill every one of these hopeless fleshbags you were supposed to keep alive. We'll do it slow... and in the very likely event you can't find your way out of here before we get you back under control, we'll even let you watch. How many people have I shown you, Hikaru? That's a hell of a lot of lives."
Hikaru is gaping again. It's not an attractive expression, looking stricken like that. Hikaru supposes that he wouldn't have the presence of mind to realise that, doped up as he is.
"I know you. You won't risk the possibility that you could keep these sacks of shit alive until help comes. You won't risk the possibility of that florist going home, reuniting with her boyfriend who's been crying himself to sleep every night even though he's supposed to be a man. You won't risk their lives, because there might still be hope for them. So you're going to stay here, and you're going to be a good boy, aren't you?"
Hikaru is silent for a beat too long, and Hikaru's hand shoots up from his arm to clasp him about the neck, his smile turning to a snarl in an instant.
"Y--yes," Hikaru chokes out, and there's fear in his voice again, which is just as it should be, as far as Hikaru is concerned. "Yes!"
Hikaru tightens his grip for a moment, before his hand drops to Hikaru's shoulder again, pulling him into his side in an embrace which might just stop him from sinking to the floor from the grief and the terror and the rage of it.
"Good... good. You're a smart dog, Hikaru. Just do as you're told, and less people will disappear off the streets... you want that, don't you? Of course you do..."
Hikaru steers Hikaru back to his prison, and Hikaru curls up on his bed and holds his head in his hands and tries desperately to assure himself that the Department will come for him.