The story ends with Shuichi Saihara dying alone in his room after the 53rd killing game, his parents none the wiser, Maki and Himiko never finding out, and all the people who have died before him having nothing to say to him.
The story begins with a little boy named Ren Amamiya who has a strong sense of finding the truth in people, who had a habit of yelling “No, that’s wrong!”, who wore a hat to avoid people’s gazes, who shied away from pianos and rocket ships.
(Shuichi is not a Persona. Far from that, really. He’s just a soul that’s been recycled into a new body. He decides that he’ll try harder this time.)
When Ren arrives in Yogen-Jaya, he fiddles with the brim of his cap as he walks through the streets.
“Sojiro Sakura’s house…” He mutters, walking down the streets. “Where is that?”
He chances upon the house, but no one answers the door, until a delivery man remarks that the man is probably at his café, so off Ren goes.
When he enters, it’s the smell of coffee that hits him first.
(Shuichi is reminded of Kirumi, making coffee for him in the colder mornings if he arrived to the dining hall early enough. The memory is bittersweet, with the edges of “She’s killed someone, and she died for it too,” floating across his mind.)
“I forgot that was today.” Sojiro says, looking at Ren like he’s a delinquent, before leading him to the attic of the café.
(The problem was, he’s not.
The problem was, there was a man forcing himself on a woman, and Ren put his hand on his shoulder and pulled him away ever so slightly, and the man fell and he bled, and Ren froze.
The problem was, that the man had enough influence to convict him of assault, but Ren had enough experience with trials and debates that he got away with probation.)
(That last part is all Shuichi’s doing.)
When Ren wakes from the dreams about a blue prison and class trials gone wrong, Sojiro drives him to school to meet the teachers.
The principal tells him that he better not cause any trouble. The teacher Ms Kawakami mutters about why she’s stuck with him.
Ren fiddles with the edge of his cap.
(In another world, Ren would have worn a pair of fake glasses. Here, he wears a black hat that lets him avoid eye contact.)
“You better be glad that I agreed to take you in. Your parents agreed to this too.” Sojiro says once the leave the school and enter his car.
Ren narrows his eyes, but didn’t say anything. His parents are as neglectful as the false backstory of the Ultimate Detective, and he had to do all the paperwork to transfer schools and the probation papers. All his parents did was sign the papers without even reading them.
When he catches the train to school, he gets caught in the rain without an umbrella. Ren stands underneath an awning, and a girl stands next to him, and pulls off her hood.
The first thing that he notices his that her hair is in pigtails.
(Maki’s hair was like that too. Two impossibly long pigtails, red scrunchies tying them back, often to make a girl seem more vulnerable and childlike. But Maki was a false assassin, and she had lost more than she had gained.)
When a teacher picks her up and drives her to school, Ren narrows his eyes. He doesn’t know who the teacher is, but he screams danger.
(Shuichi is reminded of Tenko, and her telling him how to recognise the signs of child predators as she went through the motions of Neo-Aikido. She was reluctant at first, but Shuichi told her that boys and men can be raped too, and that some of those people who do that are women. Tenko had frozen in the middle of a punch, and she looked at him and had only asked one question.
“Are you sure?”
All that Shuichi could say was “I wish I wasn’t.”)
Then a faux-blond boy comes around the corner (Faux-blond, because Ren can see the beginnings of black coming through) and tells him that the teacher’s name is Kamoshida and that he is a pervert. That he sees the school as his own castle.
When they walk to school, they find a castle in its place. They are attacked, and Ren blacks out.
He finds out the faux-blond’s name is Sakamoto.
The first thing is that Sakamoto tells him to run, he acts like a hero.
(Shuichi thinks of Kaito, Luminary of the Stars, who tried to stay strong in the middle of a killing game. For that, he paid with his life.)
When the whispers of “I am thou, thou art I,” fill his mind, and Ren rips a mask off his face, and blue fire burns around him, Arsene rises and defeats the shadows that fill the cell. When Arsene disappears, Sakamoto and Ren run out of the cell and lock Kamoshida in, and they breathe, if just for a moment.
“What,” Sakamoto says between pants. “Was that?”
Ren, unhelpfully, gives a shrug and reaches out to touch the brim of his cap.
They rescue a monster-cat named Morgana and escape.
He arrives late at school, and he sees Kamoshida again. He levels a gaze at Kamoshida, one that says “You are not the king of this school.”
Ren and Ryuji (As he learns his first name is) agree to go to the castle again.
When they enter the castle again, they meet Morgana again, and they nearly die once more.
(There are students hanging by their feet, trying to receive balls, and Shuichi can’t watch because it reminds him to much of Kaede and her end, and Rantaro’s head caved in by a shot-put ball.)
When Ryuji awakens his Persona, calls upon Captain Kidd in the same manner as Ren calls upon Arsene or any of the others he owns, Ren smiles and says “You sure took your time, you know?”
Ryuji laughs, and says “Well, better late than never, am I right?”
(Shuichi laughs too. This is the first bit of light in the darkness.)
When Siho falls, Ren’s heart jumps to his throat.
(Shuichi sees Kirumi, falling to her doom, escape only being a fickle dream. He sees Kokichi, who masterminded his own death until the very end.
He sees himself, and what could have happened.)
When Ann joins, when she declares that “this involves me too!” Ren looks away and says “It’s dangerous. Are you sure?”
Ann levels her glare. “I refuse to be on the sidelines any longer.”
When Ann awakens Carmen from the depths of her soul, they secure the infiltration route to Kamoshida’s treasure, and a calling card is sent out.
(Shuichi chuckles at the irony. The Ultimate Detective, turned into a Phantom Thief. It almost seems like a dream.)
When Kamoshida is defeated, when his shadow is sent back to his own body and his crown-turned-Olympic-Medal stolen and sold, they can all breathe.
When they decide to continue being Phantom Thieves, they call themselves the Phantoms, and they will steal the hearts of people who have their own twisted desires.
When they meet Yusuke Kitagawa, Ren blurs the lines between now and then.
(Yusuke says he’s an artist, and Shuichi sees Angie, on the floor, killed by a katana and her death turned into a locked room mystery.
When Yusuke is facing Madarame’s shadow, he awakens Goemon and rips the mask away, all Shuichi can see is the Katana gripped in Yusuke’s hand and he thinks that’s the universe playing a cruel trick on him.)
When Ren first meets Goro Akechi, he sees a liar.
(Shuichi sees Tsumugi, who masterminded a whole killing game, the rest of them none the wiser to her true intentions. Akechi is the same.)
He remains civil towards him, and when Akechi walks away, Ren can only think of the blinking alert on his phone that read “Truth Bullet Recorded”
When Makoto joins them by summoning Johanna, they storm Kaneshiro’s palace and claim his treasure. They leave the palace, and sell the briefcase that came from it.
When Mishima’s shadow is located in Mementos, Ren plays Joker, but he also has truth bullets floating on top of his hands, and he tells him that he can be more.
When Ren walks away, the bullets disappear along side Mishima.
When Medjed declares war on them, Ren is scared at first, and then he hardens his resolve, and tries to figure out who, or what, they are.
(The bullets are all there. It’s a matter of piecing the evidence together to find the truth behind the case.)
When Alibaba contacts him, he’s almost tempted to ignore it. Until they say that they can deal with the Medjed problem.
Their next target is Futaba Sakura. Sojiro Sakura’s daughter.
When they hit the blockade of a locked door that will not open, it’s up to them to change the cognition of Futaba to open her door.
Makoto tries, but there’s no response. Ren volunteers to try.
“Hey, Futaba? It’s me, Ren Amamiya. It’s nice to meet you.” He says, sitting on the floor in front of the door. “You don’t have to speak verbally to me. You can respond through text messages if that’s what you want.”
The phone is silent.
Ren continues. “I know what it’s like to shut yourself off. I did that too, once a upon a time. My parents never pay attention to me, y’know?”
The door swings open, just a bit. It knocks against Ren’s shoe.
His phone pings. The notification reads “Come in.”
When Futaba wakes Necronomicon from within her and finds closure for her mother’s death, she leaves for home.
Then the pyramid shakes, and they run.
(Shuichi likens collapsing palaces to the destruction of the Academy of Gifted Juveniles. Then he remembers Kiibo, and they memory goes from “It’s finally over.” To “He paid with his life for us.”)
When Morgana runs away, Ren spends the whole day trying to find him.
(Shuichi remembers one false case of finding someone’s lost pet alligator. It seemed like an adventure, almost.)
When they infiltrate Okumura’s palace, They find Morgana, and a new Phantom Thief.
When Ren’s eyes hit the thief’s hair, all bunched up and curly, he mentally goes through the list of people he saw in the student records, until he matches the name to the face.
“You’re Haru Okumura, right?” he asks, stepping forward. Haru panics, and looks at Morgana, who shrugs.
The others look at him. “Now that you say it.” Ann says, squinting. “They do have the same hairstyle.”
Haru panics some more.
When they hurtle through space to find Okumura’s treasure, (With Morgana returned and Haru joined), Ren stops to stare out of a window.
(Kaito would of liked this, Shuichi thinks, staring at the great expanses of space.)
Just as they leave, Ren turns to see a shooter in the shadows, waiting for them to leave to fire a shot at Okumura’s shadow.
Ren whips around, the Truth Bullet of Black Masked Persona User forming across his hand as he flings it as hard as he can at the black masked person, who gets knocked back.
“Mr Okumura!” Ren yells. “I think you need to go back to your real self, now!”
Okumura dissolves into light, leaving nothing behind. The masked user huffs, and aims the gun at Ren, who dodges and the Phantom Thieves escape, landing in the real world at the very last second.
(Shuichi is surprised that any of those actions actually worked.)
The Phantom Thieves Reputation still drops, but not as much as before, due to Okumura dropping in public, but not dying.
He’s not dead. He’ll live to see his daughter graduate, at the very least.
When Akechi reveals that he knows, about their activities, and strikes a deal, a truth bullet begins forming, and the Phantom Thieves have a plan.
When they storm Sae Nijima’s palace, it finishes with Ren getting captured by the police.
All part of the plan, he thinks as he is carted away and locked into an interrogation room deep underground.
When Sae comes, and asks for why he started, he lays his evidence, his truth bullets onto the table, and speaks.
(A testimony, Shuichi thinks. All we need to do is convince her.)
When Akechi comes in and presses his gun right between his eyes and smiles, and tells him that his justice will end here, Ren has only one thing to say before he is shot.
“We could have been friends, you know.”
Akechi stares, face blank, and he pulls the trigger and-
Ren sits at the interrogation table, fingers laced calmly together.
Ren knows his cognitive self has been shot in the head, and his death will be ruled as a suicide. He’ll be a dead man for a month or so.
When Sae comes back in and helps him to his feet, Ren breathes.
(Shuichi was prepared for another cycle, in the case that it doesn’t work.)
When Shido’s palace is sieged, the find Akechi in it’s engine room.
When Akechi tells them to run, when he nearly sacrifices themselves, Ren fires Response to Pancakes at Akechi’s Cognitive self who stumbles back from the blow, and it gives them enough time for Ryuji to sling Akechi over a shoulder and for Makoto to slam a hand on the button that raised the firewalls.
When Akechi asks why did they save him, Ren’s reply is only “I promised I wouldn’t let anyone die this time.”
(Shuichi made this promise to Kaede. He promised, and he’ll uphold it until the bitter end.)
With Akechi now fully joining the Phantom Thieves, they defeat Shido’s Shadow, but before they can take his treasure, the boat begins to capsize, and they sprint to the lifeboats on the other end of the ship.
Ryuji nearly sacrifices himself for them to escape. He comes back, but he scared them enough that Ann had screamed at him for a full minute.
(The similarities between Kaito and Ryuji are reaching worryingly high amount. Next thing Shuichi knows, they both have some incurable disease or something.)
When Mementos merges with the real world, and people stop believing in the Phantom Thieves, Ren watches each of his friends fade away into nothing before he goes as well.
When Igor is revealed to not be Igor, and the Twins are actually one person named Lavenza, Ren sets out to find the rest of his team.
The Velvet Room, that had once resembled a Prison, turned into a Class Trial ground, with the elevator still working. The main difference is, there is no Monokuma to be seen.
The Phantom Thieves each stand at a podium, and Ren breathes as he stands between Ryuji and Akechi.
Ren plays the wild card. When he looks at each of their podiums, he sees an Arcana written on the steel.
He breathes, and says “Phantom Thieves, we have one last heist to do.”
When Yaldabaoth rises from the ashes of the Holy Grail, and towers over them, Ren rips off his mask and Satanel rises from the last drenches of his soul, he raises his gun, and says, in the loudest voice he can muster:
“No, that’s wrong!”
(Shuichi stands next to him, hat gone, and finger pointed at the false god.)
He fires, and Sataneel shoots his gun, and just like that, Yaldabaoth falls.
When they wake up on the pavement, staring up into a blue sky, Yusuke is first to break the silence.
“We… did it?”
When Morgana disappears, the world disappears too, and then they’re back in Shibuya, and Ren blinks the tears out of his eyes. He’s lost a dear friend today. He can afford to be sad.
(Shuichi cries too, because he’s lost far too much.)
The weeks fly pass, and Ren turns himself in, and subjects himself to Juvenile Detention.
When he is told he is allowed out, he realises that many people have be waiting for his return. That people have had the hope he would come back out.
Morgana came back. Morgana came back.
When Morgana strides in through the door to the LeBlanc, is Ren who dives forward and scoops Morgana up into his arms and mumbles “I thought I lost you.” Into Morgana’s fur.
Morgana does a cats equivalent of a wet laugh and says “I missed you as well.”
When it is time for Ren to go home, he stands in the attic he’s begun to call home and holds his cap in his hands, bill pointed towards him.
“It’s over now, I think.” He says to it, smiling softly. “Do you think we did better this round?”
(Shuichi places a hand on Ren’s shoulder, and says “I think we did just fine. We led the world to hope, after all.”)
Sojiro yells at him that his friends are waiting, and Ren yells back that he’s coming, dropping his cap and bolting downs the stairs. His cap lays upside down, forgotten on the bed. It’s a start to something greater.
When he arrives home at last, walking through the door, he goes past his parents and to the phonebook lying next to the house phone in the hallway.
He picks through the pages, landing on the number he wants and calling with his cell phone.
“Hello?” A voice says, and Ren sucks in a breath.
“It’s me, Ren Amamiya. Remember when you offered me that internship at your detective agency? I think I’m ready to join now.”
(Shuichi breathes, and he thinks “Yeah, we did just fine.”
“What do you think, Rantaro? Kaede? Kokichi? Kaito? Kiibo? Maki? Himiko? You think we did okay?”)