Cutscene: Touched by a Unicorn

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The sound of the car door slamming a little too hard behind him barely registered in Masumi's mind as he dragged himself out of his sister's car. He couldn't even really bring himself to feel particularly guilty for almost crashing it twice on the way home from Port Island, after she was so gracious as to allow him to borrow it for the evening. He was normally much more conscientious on the road.

The youth more dragged himself than properly walked up the concrete path leading to the family home. Pain exploded through his veins with every step, his chest and arms felt like they were on fire, and the back of his head -- where he struck it on the concrete -- threatened to burst open at the slightest of jarring. He couldn't even find the energy to try and avoid his family and the ridicule his feminine costume will draw. He was just too damn tired. He just wanted to get to his room and collapse on his bed and let sleep steal the pain away.

He had overdone it at the ball, of course. And not just a little, but a lot. Dancing in the first place should have been something Masumi avoided altogether, and he had only compounded it by not paying attention to his injuries in favor of appearing more poised and graceful during that dance. Meanwhile his pain medication had worn off well over an hour ago, for he had also stayed far later than he should have.

But as his eyes registered the delicate gloved hand which rested on the doorknob in front of him, Masumi couldn't help but to think that he wouldn't change anything if he had to do it again. It had felt so good, it had felt so right. His mind had never really stopped swimming with the foreign but entirely alluring emotions, with the surrealism that he couldn't help but to wish was reality more often. The opportunity to be a girl if only for a night, to be seen and complimented and danced with as a girl.

It was almost too much. Masumi suddenly found himself slumped against the door as an intense wave of vertigo washed over him, the overwhelmingly heady emotion compounding his currently fragile physical state. He needed to get inside. He needed to go to bed. C'mon, Masumi, he coaxed himself, you've made it this far; just a little bit further and you can relax. You can take another dose of the pain medication and then go to sleep. You're almost there, don't stop now.

The youth finally found the strength -- or perhaps the nerve -- to turn the handle and step inside. He was immediately greeted with the unwelcome sight of his father and older brother sitting on the living-room couch with some beers while they watched a football game on television. Even in his current state, Masumi couldn't help but to think about how pointless and stupid football was; an automatic defense mechanism against the ridicule he knew was surely about to come.

But while Masumi could feel his father's stare burning into his back the entire way to the kitchen, the biting, sarcastic comment from his older brother never came. He actually tried to turn to see if something was wrong with said brother, so surprised was he, when another wave of vertigo washed over him. And then a strong hand was suddenly supporting him, preventing him from stumbling to the ground.

"You okay, bro? You shouldn't be straining yourself."

As the world righted itself again, Masumi blinked several times in surprise. OK, who had gone and body-swapped with his brother? This completely made no sense at all. The truth of course was that while Masumi had continued to cling to old grudges and wounds of the past, his older brother had grown and matured and wasn't nearly so much of an asshole as Masumi thought he still was. Of course he would be concerned for his little brother after he was attacked by a wild animal, regardless of his being a total sissy or not.

With a mumbled 'thanks' and 'i'll be alright,' Masumi removed himself from his brother's supporting grip and stumbled into the kitchen. The youth's hands were starting to shake noticeably by the time he got a glass of water and somehow opened the bottle of pain medication, and he almost dropped the pill several times before finally getting it into his mouth and swallowing.

Masumi didn't really remember climbing the stairs up to his room, or stripping off and haphazardly tossing aside pieces of the elaborate costume across the chair in the corner, but did finally find himself sprawled out across his bed. Like the thirsty man that had finally found water and discovered it to be all the more sweet for this thirst, Masumi found that the bed had never felt softer or been more inviting. He slowly stretched out tight, aching muscles that pain had been causing him to cramp for the last hour or so. Magnificent.

But sleep never came, held up as if by gunpoint by the constant throbbing in his head and upper body, as well as the conflicting thoughts and powerful emotions which chased themselves round and round and round through his head. The last several days had made him feel so, so --

Out of control. Like everything in his carefully ordered life was slipping further and further out of his ability to guide and manipulate and control. First he had been attacked by a man that turned into a monster, something he would never have thought possible in his wildest imaginings. It took the concept of mind-over-matter to such terrific lengths that it was almost absurd! But it had happened; the burning in his chest confirmed that beyond any doubt.

And then there had been the aftermath. It had been only by the skin of his teeth -- and with help from his boss, the woman that had saved him from the gutter, and a small blessing of supernatural wisdom and inspiration -- that he had managed to skate by without either being arrested for illegal possession of weaponry or busted by his parents for lying through his teeth. The official story was that his boss had sent him on an errand to Port Island, and that he'd been attacked by a wild animal on the outskirts of town.

The police still hadn't found any real evidence of the attack, and they never would. It was only the fact that Masumi's wounds couldn't have been inflicted by anything other than a wild animal that saved him -- it allayed just enough suspicion that they would just eventually write the investigation off and settle for spreading the word through the force to be on the lookout for a rabid wild animal. The doctor meanwhile had experienced a similar confusion, noting the distinct lack of complications that should have arisen from Masumi's injuries not receiving faster medical attention.

Masumi had breathed more than a few prayers of thanks for the supernatural healing touch of the woman that had saved him. It hadn't been nearly strong enough to save him the trip to the hospital, but had apparently saved him a lot of grief nonetheless. But once again, he had been faced with something he had never known previously to be possible. His experience with occult healing had always been a very subtle thing, channeling the body's natural energies, clearing blockages in the chakras to promote a faster natural healing, and so on.

Whatever that woman had done, it had been so much more overt than that.

And finally, there had been the ball this evening -- Masumi found his face flushing and his pulse quickening just at the slightest thought of it. The intense rush of emotion he kept feeling was on a totally different level from anything he'd ever experienced before. Thoughts of the dance kept filling his mind; the brush of the dress against his legs, the freedom from the stereotypes and exceptions that never had quite felt right, and most of all to be seen not as strange or deviant or at least mysterious, but to be seen as beautiful. The culminating moment of the subtle grace and soft beauty he had always so craved.

But it was one thing to masquerade as the opposite gender for a single night, when costumes were an order and concealment was expected. But on the long term -- what would happen when the masquerade was broken? How many things would he have to avoid to keep his secret, and how much suspicion would be raised by it? How many of his current friends could he actually trust with such a secret, and how many would he have to discard? The emotional allure warred over and over and over again with the rational constraints.

With a sudden movement, Masumi threw back the covers and sat up. This wasn't working. Between the constant throbbing and intense aching with which the pain medication was obviously not helping, and the emotions and thoughts which kept running round and round and round his head, it would be long after daylight before he finally fell asleep. He had already been lying there for easily two hours, letting the pain and the stress and the worry and the thrill tie him all up in knots.

Stepping gingerly to avoid pulling on his injuries any more than he already had, Masumi moved across the room to his stereo. The soothing, calming music of reiki began to play, followed soon by the sound of a very slow metronome; a soft bass thump that closely mimicked the sound of a beating heart, rather than the normal high-pitched ticking sound. He then moved to the other corner and lit the incense burner. A heady and relaxing scent began to slowly fill the room.

And then he finally moved to the center of the room, sitting down cross-legged on the floor, bringing the fingers of both hands together in front of him, eyes closed. Clear your mind, he instructed himself. Empty it of all the events of the last several days, all the carnal emotions both positive and negative. Inhale slowly and deeply, feel the energy circulating through your body, exhale softly. Allow your senses to melt into the music and the scent of burning incense. Focus on the steady rhythm of the eternal beat.

It took far longer than it normally did, but finally Masumi felt himself drifting into that near-trance state where the concerns of the physical world vanished as if nothing more than transient puffs of smoke. He could feel the anxiety and stress melting away from him, could feel his chakras opening one by one to allow the energy of the universe to move freely through his body and mind and soul. The fog lifted from his mind, and he could feel his clarity and vision returning. The pain had no hold on him in this elevated state of consciousness.

Time passed, though it had little meaning to him now -- it could have been as long as a second, or as little as several hours. But eventually he began to think of the stranger that had helped him out of the ditch, and most of all of the supernatural healing with which she had graced him. It had been an entirely new experience for him, outside the realm of his understanding then, and it had opened his eyes to the possibilities even as it had saved his body from the worst of its injuries. A power that could heal the sick and injured in a matter of moments, that could give life where previously only death had been seen.

Could he tap into such a power?

The outside world moved on without Masumi as he continued to look inwards, by now not even conscious of the sounds and smells which had helped induce his current state. He began to focus on the ki flowing through him, feeling the energy, tapping into it, willing it to bring about healing to his injured body. He vividly recalled the sensation of gentle warmth which spread through his body at the woman's touch of healing, and envisioned it now beginning anew at his heart, the center of all life, and expanding out through his entire body.

It began like a tiny trickle of water, barely noticeable. But as he moved deeper and deeper into the center of his own consciousness, he could feel it steadily growing until it was a steady flow, then a gentle stream, and then finally a cleansing river. It merged with the intense otherworldly feeling of tapping into his Persona -- but somehow different. It wasn't the feeling of mystery and secrets and gentle illumination that he was accustomed to, but a feeling of, of --

Purity. But a purity so achingly intense that he could feel penitent tears drifting down from his closed eyes at his won sheer unworthiness, accompanied by a deep shame that almost made him break off the summoning entirely. Surely this was a power that he had no right to wield, a piece of his consciousness that one so flawed and sinful as himself could not dream to touch with the sullied taint of his own imperfection. Surely it was a transgression of the highest magnitude to tread here in the realm of angels.

And then that sense of such overwhelmingly intense purity coalesced into the vision of a unicorn, its coat of the most brilliant and perfect white. It was a color that made the purest white man's tools could create seem to be the dirtiest, grimiest gray in comparison, and Masumi knew that he must surely flee or be torn apart by the great beast's gentle but condemning gaze. He felt his mind desperately trying to retreat from the world of deepest consciousness it had entered, a world that suddenly had terrifying new rules since the last time he had entered it. He longed for Ceridwen's much more gentle light.

But as he turned to run through the mindscape, the Unicorn was standing there, so close he could reach out and touch it. And he suddenly knew that the ache threatening to tear him apart was not of desire to flee from it -- but of desire to reach out and touch it. To embrace and accept it as part of himself. To feel its purity washing over his sinful soul, bringing cleansing and healing to the darkness which lurked there. To bring glorious life to this new avatar of elevated consciousness that he had discovered.

And so he reached out and touched it, never having known before that Persona could be represented in multiplicity, but knowing now that it was simply so. The great unicorn dispersed into an ethereal mist as he touched it, and the youth wept openly as his mind opened and he felt a sudden intense affinity with that purity. It was a part of him, and he was a part of it. He knew that as surely as he knew he was alive.

And after his body climbed into bed without his conscious knowledge, he drifted into the deepest sleep he had ever experienced as powerful healing energies washed through body and mind and soul. He would face the new dawn of tomorrow without any of the anxiety or stress or pain which had plagued him so tonight.

The doctors never would figure out how he recovered so rapidly. They would frown and tentatively call it a miracle for lack of anything else to call it, then move on and quickly forget about the single case which challenged their science and their understanding of the world. But maybe, just maybe, one of them would remember. Maybe one of them would be spurred to seek the truth rather than bury it, to accept the challenge to redefine their worldview rather than reject anything which didn't fit inside their box. Maybe. Maybe.

<Persona Unlocked: Unicorn!>

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