AN: As I have stated before, this is a story using both my characters and Kate's characters. Thanks go out again to Kate for letting me use her characters! Please e-mail all comments to FrankMayn@comcast.net
Once more, the doors of the elevator opened up on the fifth floor.
What was there made the entire group, save the three who were in the gun fight, gasp in terror. A few of the things that were out there did make those three go wide eyed, though.
When the doors, opened, the adventuring teenagers and a demoness were treated to a grisly sight. There were SEBEC agents scattered around, all dead with gunshot wounds, and soaking in spreading pools of blood. Some of them, the ones that Janet had shot earlier, were on fire. Some of the agents were completely on fire, while some of them were burning only from the neck up.
"Ladon... what happened here?" Alex said as he looked around in disbelief. His tail was waving around slowly.
"We're what happened, Alex... they wanted us dead, and we just wouldn't allow that." Frank said quietly.
The group piled out of the elevator and began to look around, taking extra care not to step into pools of blood or the burning corpses.
"I didn't get a chance to take a good look around here, Frank. We may need to spread out and search." Brad explained to his friend.
Frank was about to reply, when Kate's voice shook his thoughts.
"Hey... there's a door here... It's locked though." Kate said as she tried to pull open a set of wooden double doors. The Woren peeked through the windows on the doors curiously.
"Hey! A bridge! It's covered in glass... Neat!!!" The woren said happily.
Frank walked up to his girlfriend. "You mean the walkway?" The Persona User tugged on the doors lightly before giving them a light kick.
"Still locked... we can't take the shortcut to Guido's office..." Frank said before crossing his arms.
"So... what do we do now?" Tellka asked Frank. "You've been here before, you should know."
"Well, we take the long route, like Ellen and I did our last time through here." Frank explained before pushing his glasses up on his face once more.
"Wha's th' long route?" Diane asked, tail flicking in curiosity.
Ellen cleared her throat. "Well... see that staircase over there? We've got to go down it, look for the descending stairs on each floor, then take the ascending staircases back up to the fifth floor."
Janet let out a loud groan. "More walking? Great. So, do we know where to go or not?"
Frank removed his pack and placed it on the floor. The Persona User began to rummage through, looking for a certain something. After a few seconds, he pulled the maps that he had printed out earlier in the receptionist office from his backpack.
"We do now... This will make it a lot easier on us." The Persona User explained as he zipped his backpack up."
"All right then..." Yuki said as she eyed the stairwell. "Let's go. We've got nothing to lose.."
The group took the first staircase down to the fourth floor and began to make their way to the next staircase.
"Myah... my feet hurt..." Neko-Chan whined.
*****************************************************"Jeez... this place goes on forever!!!" Tellka muttered as the group finally made their way back to the first floor.
"Meow... you can say that again... Myah! I've never had to go up and down so many of those stairs!!!" Neko-Chan said as she rubbed her sore feet.
"Well..." Ellen said before scratching behind one of the straps of her vest. "We could rest down here... If we take a slight detour, that is."
"Wait... you don't mean the Fountain of Give and Take, do you???" Yuki said in despair.
"Wha' d'ya mean?" Diane asked, tail flicking in interest. "Wha's s' bad 'bout a fountain?"
"It's not the fountain itself, Diane... it's the keeper of the fountain. It's just something about the way she is." Frank replied to the curious woren.
"Come on... she can't be that bad, can she?" Janet asked in genuine curiosity.
"Oh, believe me..." Frank said before wiping his brow. "She can be bad... very, VERY bad..."
Janet merely shrugged.
Oh, come now! No one can be that bad... well... almost no one... So what do we have to lose? I mean, I would like to rest before heading up five more flights of stairs... Damn... I miss being able to use those elevator things already...
"What have we got to lose? Nothing's that bad... C'mon! I'd like to rest for a bit!" Janet said before placing her hands on her hips.
"All right then... But you'll see how bad she is!" Frank said before shaking his head.
"Don't say we didn't warn you..." Brad muttered before looking around at nothing in particular.
"Come on... I'll lead the way... And watch out... I think there's another shock trap somewhere around here..." Ellen had said, before walking down another hallway. "Right here... I believe..." With those words, the female Persona User took an ink pen from her pocket and threw it on the floor before hopping back. Sure enough, sparks flew from the floor, making the pen rattle and shake before exploding and leaving the white walls a black, ink stained mess.
"Just follow my lead, okay?" Ellen said before sprinting and jumping over the trapped floor tile. The Persona User landed gracefully on the other side before taking a bow.
"Show off..." Janet grumbled to no one in particular.
"That's my Ellie for you! A natural at anything she does!" Alex said, tail waving happily. The woren took off and easily hopped over the shock trap.
Diane smirked. "Ha! I kin out do both of y'all!" The younger Brandshire took off running, and did a somersault before landing beside Ellen and Alex.
Sooner or later, the entire group had made their way over the shock trap. The only problem encountered was that Janet nearly fell back onto the trap when she lost her balance. Luckily, Yuki was there to grab her and pull her back.
"Thanks Yuki..." Janet said as she eyed the trap wearily.
"Hey... Don't mention it, okay?" The Japanese teenager said to the Windian with a smile.
Ellen lead the group down the hallway to two different doors. "Okay... the room at the end of the hall will take us to the Velvet Room. We don't need to go there at the moment, I think. Any one have any objections?"
"None here, Ellie. All my Persona are good to go." Frank said casually.
"Well... I'm fine... Justice Talon, Moon Succubus... and Justice Darkside are all ready." Brad replied before shining his fingernails on his uniform jacket.
Yuki crossed her arms lightly before leaning back like she usually does. "Let me think first... Empress Vesta is good to go... Rank eight, I believe. Then I've also got Lovers Jackfrost... and Empress Dorga is still being powered up. I'm okay here."
Diane looked at the four Persona Users with an extremely confused look on her face. "Th' Velvet Room? Wha' th' heck is that?"
Ellen chuckled at Diane, whose tail was whipping around in confusion. "The Velvet Room is where the souls of those from the past and other worlds seek out those in their time of need. Basically, it's where we change out our Persona when we need to. Think of it as like a gateway to a person's soul..."
Diane was still confused. "I dun get it at all... Man... ya Persona Users sure make thin's complicated..."
Frank chuckled at the younger Brandshire sibling. "Maybe later then... there's a portal in both malls... I'll take you guys later if we need to go."
Brad pushed the door open that lead to the Fountain of Give and Take. "Ah heck... We may as well get this over with..."
***************************************************The Fountain of Give and Take: a fountain that resides in yet another realm, much like the Velvet Room. The Persona Users often come to this place when they do not have enough energy left to heal their weary bodies. However, the hostess of the fountain leaves much to be desired.
The door in SEBEC swung open to a much different place. The Windia natives were in awe at what was in the "room".
In the center of the clearing was a massive fountain spouting only the purest, clearest water that was ever known to anyone. Nature was abundant within the realm. The proof there were the trees, flowers, and grass that sprouted from around the fountain. Sunlight was shining into the clearing from two different places: The sky above and the stained glass windows of various faeries, angels, and elves. Said windows adorned the walls that enclosed said clearing.
"Ladon...This place is absolutely breath-taking!" Janet said with a low whistle. The Windian wandered over to one of the stained glass windows, which had an angel decorating it. She pulled the spell card from her pack and stared at it for a moment, before she compared it with the image on the window.
Diane decided to relax underneath a tree. The woren reclined against the trunk of a massive redwood before taking her gun from her back and checking it over.
Neko-Chan stretched. "Meow! Finally... a chance to rest!" The catgirl demoness said before stretching again, yawning, and lying down in the shade of another tree.
Alex was going to look at the fountain, when he noticed the distressed look that was on Ellen's face.
The woren approached his girlfriend and smoothly slid an arm around her. "Love? What's wrong? You're usually not like this..."
Ellen just shook her head. "It's nothing... Just that I'm surprised that she's not here yet..."
"She???" Alex asked with an eyebrow raised. "Who is she?" At that point, Alex's tail was whipping around in curiosity.
Ellen was about to reply when a high pitched, feminine voice yelled out from behind her.
"I'm that person that she's talking about, furball!!!"
The voice got the attention of everyone in the room. All eyes were now trained on what looked like to be a short teenage girl with butterfly like wings, who was flying. Said woman had short green hair which was hidden underneath a pink cap, had clear blue eyes, and pale white skin. She was wearing what looked like a pink set of overalls, with shorts instead of traditional pants, and a white shirt. In her right hand was a sparkling magic wand, which Neko-Chan was currently staring at.
"Hi Trish..." Frank said with a sigh.
Trish: AKA Kelli. A faerie that is the keeper of the Fountain of Give and Take, which is also known as Trish's fountain. Rumor has it that she had been banned from her realm because of her greed. Trish offers medical attention to the Persona Users, but for a hefty price...
Trish placed her hands on her hips. "Let's get straight to the point, Persona User. Do you and your friends need to be healed or not???"
Kate looked at the faerie before turning to Tellka. "Look Tellka! A faerie!!! Though it doesn't look like the ones that I've seen in our history books..."
Tellka slapped her forehead and turned to Kate. Both of her ears were twitching impatiently. "Kate... that's not even a faerie from back home! Of course she doesn't look like those little bug things!!!"
Kate shuffled her feet before turning back to Tellka. The younger woren's tail was twitching slowly. "Oh yeah... I forgot where we were at the moment..."
Tellka just shook her head before turning back to gaze at the fountain.
Trish, however, was getting impatient. She fluttered her wings a couple of times before making a beeline toward Yuki, who was currently talking to Janet about different things.
"Well???" Trish said before placing her hands on her hips again.
Janet looked at the faerie, apparently upset that her conversation was so rudely interrupted. Both she and Yuki were talking about angels and comparing them from both their dimensions. The Windian was surprised to find that the angels in both worlds did look alike, and some of the beliefs that they shared were similar. However, Trish decided to butt in, annoying both the Windian and the Japanese teenager.
"Well what???" Janet replied with an annoyed tone.
"You don't get it, do you?" Trish replied while waving her wand, sending sparkles of magic flying around.
Yuki stared at Trish for a few moments. "You know, we were talking here...it was rude of you to do that..."
Trish looked at both the Persona User and the Windian in disbelief. "I can't believe you people! Barging into my fountain... and not even answering my questions!"
"Yuki, do you hear anything?" Janet asked innocently.
Yuki just smiled back at the Windian. "Why, no I don't, Janet... Though I do feel a bit of hot air coming from that general direction..."
Trish was beginning to fume. "HEY!!! LISTEN TO ME!!! DO YOU GUYS NEED TO BE HEALED OR NOT?!" At this point, the faerie was beginning to fly around, apparently ticked off at the fact that no one was listening to her at all.
"I swear, Yuki... I keep thinking that I hear something around us... But then again, I don't think it's there at all..." Janet said with a smile.
"I think you may be right, Janet. Though I feel this hot air coming from around us..." Yuki said with a giggle.
Trish fled the scene in anger before flying right into Brad, nearly toppling the egotistical Persona User over.
"Ow! Hey!!!" Brad said as he tried to regain his footing. "Watch it!"
Trish flew backwards a little bit before adjusting her hat. After doing so, she waved her wand again, sending out sparkles of magic.
"I can heal you... and your friends! Though it will cost you..." Trish said innocently.
At that moment, Frank decided to approach Trish. "Is that all you can think about all the time? Money isn't all that important! It's experiences in life that make it up! Money isn't everything!"
Trish shrugged. "Au Contraire, Persona User! Money is everything! It makes the world go around! Not enough, and you get nothing! I love money! So if you want to be healed, cough it up! Gimme!!!" The faerie punctuated her sentence by waving her wand around
Frank sighed at Trish's words. "You don't get it, do you... All right then... how much?"
Trish fluttered her wings lightly before pulling out a calculator from out of nowhere. "Okay... now there are ten of you... I figure that five grand should cover the costs..."
The Persona User's eyes went wide in shock. Frank took a moment to push his glasses back up on his face. "Excuse me??? Did you just say five thousand dollars???"
"Of course, Persona User! Healing uses my energy! And you have to pay for what I use! So are you going to heal up or not?"
Frank shook his head. "Forget it! I could just heal us all with my Persona and save my cash for something important." The Persona User motioned to his friends. "C'mon guys! We're leaving now."
Apparently, everyone was happy to leave the fountain. Diane ignored the faerie all together, but truth be told, she was getting on the woren's nerves.
Everyone filed out of the doorway to head back into the hallways of SEBEC. As they were leaving, the entire group heard Trish's angry voice behind them.
"FINE!!!" Trish yelled at the group of adventuring teens as they left. "DON'T HEAL UP! SEE IF I CARE IF YOU ALL DIE!!!"
Janet shook her head. "Damn...that little faerie was annoying..."
Diane looked back at the door as they made their way through the hallway. "Jeez... tha' little thin' had a mouth on her..." The woren slowly shook her head as she continued down the hall with her friends.
***********************************************Eventually, the teenagers and a demoness made their way over to another set of stairs. The weary group made their way up the staircase, apparently relieved that they didn't have to seek out the next one, since it was close by to the one that was just ascended.
On the third floor, Yuki noticed a door leading to what seemed to be a long, stretching office area. Remembering that she had found a door on the other end of SEBEC that was locked, she put two and two together. Yuki decided that they could use this as a shortcut back to the entrance of the building.
I'll tell Frank about this later... I'm sure it would make the trip back much, much easier...
The group of teenagers finally made it to the fifth and final floor. Across from Guido's office was the walkway, which of course was unlocked on this side.
"Ten to one says that the shard is in there..." Brad said before combing his hair once more.
"I wouldn't even have to bet... I know for certain that it's probably in there." Frank said to his friend before adjusting his leather jacket once more.
Ellen began to fidget. The Persona User was adjusting her Kevlar Vest once more. "Well... someone needs to go and check... I may as well go and do that."
"Ellie... I'm going with you." Alex said to his girlfriend. Much to his surprise, Ellen shook her head.
"I'll be fine, love. I can take care of myself." The Persona User then drew her rapier, examined it, and began to head for the door.
"Ellie!!!" Alex said, his tail waving in worry.
Ellen turned back to her boyfriend with a look of interest on her face.
"Look... just be careful, okay? I'd try and talk you out of it, but I know you." Alex said quietly.
"I will love... Don't worry..." And with those words, Ellen Johnson opened the door to Guido's office and slipped in. The Persona User closed the door slightly behind her, leaving just a little crack that let in a bit of light from the hallway outside.
Ellen stood her guard and looked around wearily.
Nike? Yes? What is it???
Ellen... the shard that you are seeking... I sense it here... The Holy Magic it is giving off...
Ellen glanced around the office while speaking to her Persona within her mind.
Nike... I don't see it anywhere... Where are you feeling it?
To your left, Ellen. It's in one of those odd looking metal cabinets over there... The ones that Starion's host and Ryu's host were opening earlier...
You mean the lockers... Okay Nike, heading over there now...
Ellen was about to head to the locker, when the sound of a gun's hammer caught her attention.
"Freeze! Drop the rapier, bitch!"
Damn... not him! I thought we killed him!!!
"Not a move! I owe you one for earlier!"
Despite the warning, Ellen slowly turned and saw a big, burly man in a bloodstained blue suit, holding what looked to be a Browning HP 9mm handgun, trained on her.
Not Tiny... That's the last thing I needed!
Tiny: Guido's personal bodyguard, and head of all illegal activities within SEBEC. The Persona Users thought that he was killed earlier, during their first encounter. It should be known that Tiny can use Persona as well, since his powers were awakened at a younger age.
Damn... I can't even get my rifle from my back!
Ellen did the only thing she could do. She took a swing at Tiny with her rapier, hoping to knock the handgun from his hand. However, the bodyguard jumped back, and lowered his arms.
"Don't even try it, girl! ARGH!!!" Tiny yelled out.
Immediately, wind and magical energies kicked up around the senior SEBEC agent, before a circle of blue light appeared beneath him. Soon after, Tiny was engulfed in a column of soft blue light, as his Persona emerged from him.
Tiny's Persona, which emerged in the form of a dark knight, glared at Ellen. The Persona User held back her screams, even after a wave of dark energy overwhelmed her, making her weak.
Tiny took the moment to disarm Ellen by kicking the rapier from her hand and throwing her assault rifle across the office. While Ellen was unconscious, Tiny decided to drag her over to Guido's desk, which wasn't very far from where he was standing. What he didn't count on was Ellen regaining consciousness.
Ellen slowly regained her senses. She noticed her rapier and assault rifle in one part of the room, in front of the locker that she was going to investigate. She also felt herself being pulled harshly toward the front of the office.
Oh my GOD!!! He's going to kill me!!!
Ellen did the only thing that she could in that situation. She began to scream as loud as she could. Tiny hoisted her up and leveled his pistol at her head, while he held on to her tightly.
"Prepare to die, girl! This for all the pain that you and your friends put me through earlier!"
Ellen closed her eyes, waiting for it all to end.
I should have been more careful... Oh... why didn't I listen to Alex... Now my mistake will probably cost me my life...
The gunshot never came. Tiny's attention was taken from his hostage to a door being kicked in by an angry Alex Brandshire, who was followed by his friends who all had their weapons drawn.
Alex let out a low growl as both of his ears began to flatten back. The woren was going to charge at Tiny when the arms of his sister held him back.
"Ya idiot! What do ya thin' ye're doin'???" Diane growled out at her older brother.
"Let... me... go... Diane..." Alex replied violently as he glared at Tiny.
"First off, th' guy has a gun! Try anythin' now, and Ellen won't be around fer much longer!" Diane retorted while trying to keep her brother in check.
The distraction that Alex and his friends had created when they had burst into the office was all the time Ellen needed. She elbowed Tiny in the gut as hard as she could, causing him to loosen his grip in surprise. The Persona User managed to wriggle free and began to run.
However, Tiny managed to regain his composure a bit too quickly for Ellen's sake.
"You God Damn Bitch! Go to hell!" Tiny yelled as he shot at Ellen's back.
Time seemed to slow down in the room... Ellen's name could be heard repeated in panic from her friends. The bullet behind the Persona User seemed to slow down, as well as Ellen herself. Before long, the bullet impacted with the back of her Kevlar vest, causing an immense amount of pain to flood through out her entire body.
"AGGH!!!" Ellen yelled as she crumpled to the floor in pain. From the back of the Persona User's Kevlar vest, a flattened 9mm bullet could be seen shining in the light.
"ELLIE!!!" The Persona Users and their friends said in unison.
"ELLEN!!! Oh...may Ladon grant you the mercy that I cannot..." Alex said violently before ripping out of his sister's grip.
"Alex! NO!!! Ya idiot!!!" Diane yelled at her brother's charging form.
Tiny trained his gun on the charging Woren, when his mouth dropped.
"What... what the hell???" The shaking SEBEC guard said as he witnessed the last thing that he would ever see.
As Alex ran at Tiny, the woren began to transform into one of the most feared things known to anyone.
"Oh my God!!!" Yuki said, wide eyed.
"What the hell is happening to him???" Brad asked in pure fear.
"Myah! By the makers... I've never..." Neko-Chan said before huddling near Frank.
By now, Kate was beginning to scream in pure fear, while Tellka was trying her best to calm down the shaking woren. Janet was beginning to shake as well, since she was witnessing one of the most feared things from her home world.
"Oh no... not the weretiger... not now Alex..." Frank said quietly as he shook his head.
As Alex charged, the woren began to transform. In mid run, Alex dropped to all fours making him even faster than he was before. The sound of his school uniform ripping could be heard, exposing the dark red fur beneath. As soon as he pounced at Tiny, he had become a full weretiger. The force of his jump sent both of them into the desk, toppling it over. Screams could be heard from behind the desk.
The first thing that Alex/weretiger did to Tiny was to slap the gun from his hand. The nine millimeter went flying toward the back window, causing a spider web pattern to emerge from the point of impact. After that, the weretiger began to bite furiously at Tiny's face and neck while slashing at him with his claws. Flesh could be heard being torn violently from the bodyguard's body and throat. Suddenly, a splash of blood decorated the back window of the office, seeping through the cracks that the gun had made earlier. Still not satisfied, the now berserk weretiger continued to rip at Tiny's flesh, making the carpet and the desk a sticky, crimson mess. Blood could be seen spurting from where the agent's throat used to be, staining both the weretiger's fur and everything around the desk. A bloody eyeball came rolling toward the group of teenagers, sending all of them into a new bout of fear.
At that moment, Ellen began to get up, shaking her head in pain. She managed to fish a ripobitan out of one of her pockets and pop it open. As soon as she downed the bitter tasting medicinal elixir, the pain had subsided. Ellen slowly got up, only to witness her boyfriend had turned into his alter-ego, much like Dr. Jekyll would turn into Mr. Hyde.
"ALEX!!! ALEX!!! I'm okay!!! Please..." The Persona User said in despair.
"Ellie! He's gone! We've gotta git outta here!!!" Diane yelled at her brother's boyfriend.
Frank was busy evacuating his friends at the moment. He stared down the hall and noticed that Yuki, Janet, and Brad were tearing down the staircase.
"Diane! Ellie! We've got to go... NOW!!!" Frank yelled back into the office.
Kate was scared. So scared that she took off crying into the walkway.
"Kate!!! NO!!!" Tellka yelled as she took off, grumbling. The older woren was now chasing after the younger one, grumbling and cursing in the old Woren language.
Frank looked at the scene in disbelief.
Damn... not good... not good at all... Some go downstairs... Kate and Tellka across the walkway... The last thing we needed to do was this...
"Ellie! Diane! Meet us back in the receptionist office! Be careful!!!" Frank yelled as he took off after his girlfriend and her guardian.
"MYAH!!! FRANK!!! WAIT!!! DON'T LEAVE ME!!!" Neko-Chan yelled at the Persona User. In true form, Frank waited on the fleeing demoness before attempting to catch up to the woren duo.
Ellen had managed to grab her rapier and her assault rifle from the front of the locker. The locker had been torn open in the mayhem, showing the shard glowing in all its brilliance. Ellen snatched it up before Diane began to drag her out of the room.
"Ellie, c'mon! We can't stay! We have ta git goin'! Before he realizes..." Diane yelled at the Persona User.
All Ellen did was offer a nod. Both the Woren and the Persona User bolted out of the room, banked left, and began to tear down the staircase, totally ignoring the walkway and the stretching office space.
Weretiger Alex noticed, however, With a grunt, he slowly turned his head, with blood dripping from his jaws. He gave a fierce sounding his before bounding out into the hallway.
The weretiger seemed to sniff the air, before bounding down the staircase after his sister and his girlfriend.