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Summary: In the Magatsu Mandala, Souji opens a box, and Kanji pays for it.
Length: 1000 words
Rating: R?
Notes: Old fill from the original Persona 4 kink meme. The request was for Kanji/Naoto death!fic where Kanji dies. ...Looking back, I'm a bit embarrassed at this. It's so edgy and overly dramatic.

Souji, you idiot! Why did you have to go and open that-

It had been a treasure chest, like the kind you'd see in a pirate movie, standing on a pile of gold, full of coins, with a jewel-encrusted chalice or cross on top.

But this was no pirate movie, and there was no treasure.

It was the Magatsu Mandala, and they...

They had opened Pandora's Box.

Except that instead of finding that last remaining "hope", what had sprung out of that chest was this - this -

This thing.

This spectre with chains hanging off it, writhing like snakes.

With two guns the size of cannons, ominously black, with hellish red light glowing through every opening.

They can't fight this thing.

And yet the leader stands fast, and like obedient little sheep, they stand with him.

Gotta give it to him, Kanji thinks, he's usually right - but they can't fight this. He'd know that even without Rise's distant, desperate urging to run, to just get the hell out of there.

The thing, the Reaper, fires a gun straight up, a sharp sound that echoes and re-echoes, but no one pays attention to it because that oppressive presence just increased manifold.

It's a normal shadow, just a pile of suppressed emotions, it should not be able to reason, but it's taunting them, just as smug as the motherfucker Adachi. It knows it's too much for them, and it's just waiting for them to decide whether to stay or run, and they should run, they should run, dammit, there's nothing to gain by doing this-

But they're doing it.

Perfect synchronisation. Two personas. Amaterasu, fire. And whatever fucked-up thing the leader is using, enveloping them in a thick blanket of defensive energy. He should feel safe like this. Like nothing can hurt them. But he'd be wrong.

The Reaper shows no sign of noticing the massive inferno and moves through it without hesitation, seemingly without pain.

Then it takes aim and fires through the flames, the blast of the gun sending out a shock that snuffs out the last flickering fires. There is no bullet, but a cloud of dark miasma travelling at the speed of a lead slug.

A normal human could do nothing to avoid it. But they are not normal humans, and Yukiko just barely has time to intercept it with her fan.

To her credit - to the credit of the old man Daidara who made it, who spun it out of nightmare fibres they brought him from this fucked-up place - she does not die. Even though the fan shatters into a thousand pieces, throwing her back, she can still move, calls her persona to cover her while she tries to recover, tries to heal the wounds.

He only registers these things in passing, because as soon as the shot hits, as soon as he sees that monstrous gun kick, throwing the shadow slightly off balance, he's charging ahead, hands reaching for the steaming barrel. It sizzles when his fingers close around it, hot enough to burn, and he quickly manoeuvres it in under his arm, pressing it against his body, using his thick jacket to protect himself as he wrestles with it. It's still hot, burning against his chest and arm even through the leather. He ignores it and tries grappling the shadow, tries to pry its fingers loose, but his hands close over rough cloth and flesh too insubstantial to hold on to, and cold, so cold that frost blooms on his skin when he touches it.

He can't do anything here, so instead he lunges for the other gun with one hand, but the Reaper is too large, too strong, and he manages only to cut his palm open on one of those dancing chains, blood that hisses and spits as he returns that hand to the weapon still trapped against his body, does his best to keep it steady and away from his friends, even if it hurts, keep the creature occupied so they can get a good shot in-

The shadow points its other gun straight up once more and pulls the trigger, and the area is filled with bright light.

It's getting brighter still as swirling orbs of crackling energy descend from above, brilliant white tinged with purple along the edges, closer and closer, and once they meet -

He can already feel the shockwave. He'll be right at the centre.

Or maybe not. Maybe something else will.

With a final desperate effort, he pushes the phantom back, towards the whirling spheres.

Pushes it on top of the lights just as they converge, mere inches above ground.

He never even hears the explosion.

It tears through the Reaper's insubstantial flesh like tissue paper, sends fragments of chain and cloth and dark wisps flying, some of it embedding in his skin even as he is thrown up and back, away from the blast.

There is a deafening crack as he strikes the ground, and then silence.

Kanji stares up at the nothing above, trying to gather his thoughts.

Someone is next to him, cradling his head and crying, shouting his name. He can hear it, just barely.

It doesn't become her, crying like that. He's going to tell her, but his mouth won't move. He'll wipe those tears away, but his arms won't move either. He can't even feel them. Can't feel anything. He'd crack a joke about not feeling his legs, except he really can't feel them, just a dull, distant pain, everything aching.

Kanji, Kanji, why did you- why- why would you have to- why did you- why, why, Kanji, why-

The distant voice is approaching hysteria. He manages to raise one hand, the left, but there's something wrong with it, it doesn't look the way it used to, and all he can think of is that it better heal up properly because he needs it for his sewing, he can't do anything right if he can't hold the material securely, even as he strokes a cold, wet cheek, leaving an ugly red and black streak behind.

It doesn't help. The tiny body by his side shakes with sobs, tears falling like rain, he can feel them, hear them splash on his skin.

Wow, he's going to tell her, as soon as his voice cooperates again.

I never knew...

It's getting strangely dim.

...never knew...

But even with everything else gone, he can still see her, as clear as day.

...I never knew you cared.

March 2016

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