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Sink and Sail

Chapter Text

Water flooded a masked boy’s lungs as the Phantom Thieves’ latest heist had unceremoniously concluded in abject failure.

‘Why…?’ idle thoughts floated above his descending body.

The Cruiser of Pride began its shameful descent to the bottom of the cognitive ocean that had swallowed Japan amidst the aftermath of the palace ruler, Masayoshi Shido. The Phantom Thieves emerged victorious with their bout against the Shadow and they were rewarded with the treasure, a ship’s wheel.

‘How did this…’ the black-haired teen’s recalled the final dry moments the thieves shared.

The palace rapidly deteriorated even before the treasure was taken and the ticking clock for the thieves accelerated onwards. Escape became an increasingly fleeting possibility at each corner in the ship only robbed them of hope.

‘We are not going to die like this!’ Morgana’s high-pitched voice echoed in his mind. Those were the last words spoken with any hope present from the thieves. Immediately after, an explosion rocked the ship that destabilized the ceiling overhead and collapsed what little stability the structure had left. Only the intelligible, panicked screams of teenagers were left to fill the void left by whatever hope they had accumulated.

‘Mona, Skull, Panther, Fox, Queen, Oracle, Noir…’ the leader of the thieves spared his final thoughts to the teammates he had failed to lead to safety.

‘Crow…’ as well as the one he had failed to avenge.

Dreamless, permanent sleep awaited him.


Or so Joker thought.

“Giving up so easily?” bored and apathetic best characterized the greeting. The leader of the Phantom Thieves attempted to open his eyes to meet this apparition head-on and surprised himself at his success.

Before Joker stood a boy with a mop of blue hair that concealed his right eye. When both of his eyes locked on the other boy’s singular one on display, a wave of familiarity crashed in his mind. Joker attempted to open his mouth but that motion betrayed him and no noise was made on his end.

Given no reason to stop, the bluenette continued “You’ll give wild cards a bad name…” He proceeded to scratch the back of his head seemingly in annoyance. “…and you didn’t even reach the final one.”

The blue-haired boy momentarily breaks eye contact and peers behind Joker “Oh, there’s two of you?”

‘Two?’ the frizzy-haired one of the two attempted to turn his head to no avail.

A single-eye analyzed his stillness with the intensity he’d never encountered before though the only muttered a simple, if not bemused, sigh.  Joker still could not shake off the feeling of familiarity emanating from this… person, if he could call him that. Whether it be his appearance, mannerisms or tone, he could not help but be reminded of something that felt long past. His train of thought was cut short by the bored voice once again.

“Sending two back? What a pain…” a shake of the bluenette’s head accompanied the complaint.

“Since I’m the only one here… I’ll be the one to ask.” with the snap of the bluenette’s fingers, a contract materialized before Joker alongside a pen that he now clasped in his right hand.

“Sign your name there, it’s a contract and this will help you two avoid making the same mistakes again.”

“Don’t worry, all it says is you’ll accept full responsibility for your actions.” Joker narrowed his eyes at that statement. Or at least he felt he did, he was unsure what part of his body he still had control over.

“You know, the usual stuff.”

He wrote down his name, Ren Amamiya, and an awful nostalgia washed over him.

‘Déjà -‘

“Déjà vu, right?” the bluenette took the contract and pen from Ren’s hands as soon as he finished. “Don’t think too hard on it… I’ve done this before too.”

The vaguest hint of a smirk formed on the contract holder's lips.

“Oh, things may be a bit different this time. Don’t be too scared at the new faces though…”

A long moment passed between the two of them as he pretended to think over what he would describe said new faces.

“They’re friends.”

Chapter Text

Monday, 11th of April 2016
Castle of Lust, Metaverse
Morning

‘What’s the matter…? are you simply going to watch?’

A painfully familiar feeling of déjà vu assaults a bespectacled boy as all recollection of the situation he found himself in was all but lost to him. Scanning the surroundings revealed that he was in a dungeon, a decrepit one at that given the stone architecture.

‘Are you forsaking him to save yourself?’

As the voice boomed in his head, the boy became more cognizant of his surroundings. Two comical armored knights were pinning him against the wall. Looking past them he seems a man from behind wearing a robe and seemingly nothing underneath if his obscured vision was anything to go by. Lastly, he noticed a boy his age with ruffled blonde hair struggling against a singular knight preparing the unfortunate soul’s execution.

‘Death awaits him if you do nothing.’

A name crawled its way into his mind from a past he knew, Ryuji. The boy’s name was Ryuji… and he knew him from somewhere. He knew this Ryuji was important, but he couldn’t remember why.

‘Was your previous decision a mistake then?’

He flashed back to the moment he signed a contract with a blue-haired boy. Things became much clearer and only one response was appropriate for the situation.

‘It wasn’t’ Ren practically snarled the reply in his mind.

‘Very well… I have heeded your resolve.’

This was Arsene, his persona, speaking to him as he was about to awaken. These events, he thought, had already occurred before and the meaning behind the contract of the blue-haired cyclops became clearer. 

‘Vow to me.’

No words were needed, he already knew what he had to do.

‘I am thou, thou art I…’

‘First Ryuji…’

‘Thou who art willing to perform all sacrilegious acts for thine own justice!’

‘Then Morgana…’

‘Call upon thy name, and release thy rage!’

Ren shut his eyes imagining the faces of his team that he failed on that ship.

‘Show the strength of thy will to ascertain all on thine own, though thou be chained to Hell itself!’

“That’s enough!” that caught the pervert’s attention as the robed man turned around to face Ren instead.

“You desire to be killed that much? Fine!” one of the knights restraining Ren was about to bash the boy’s head with a shield only to be stopped… by said boy's hand.

A birdlike domino mask had suddenly donned itself over Ren’s eyes and he instinctively knew what to do. In a single, one-handed flourish he ripped the mask off his face to reveal his bloodsoaked forehead. Blue flames immediately consumed him and he a black ankle-length tailcoat, a matching waistcoat, dark trousers, all of which accentuated by his bright red gloves.

“I am the pillager of twilight—Arsene!” the imposingly large figure behind Ren declared. The self-proclaimed Arsene dressed distinctively from top to bottom, from a very tall top hat, a dashing red old school suit, and the unmistakable wings sprouting from his back.

The knights that had pinned Ren on the wall were knocked away unceremoniously with the barely clothed Palace ruler staring agape at the newly reawakened persona.

“Who the hell are you…!?” he recalled the pervert’s name, Kamoshida, and Ren felt the urge to strike the bastard down right then and there. Ryuji’s groan of discomfort reminded him of his priorities, and he took a combative stance against the knights.

‘Right, Ryuji and Morgana’s safety first… then we can deal with Kamoshida.’ the knights transformed into black masses before coalescing back into familiar forms. ‘Jack-o’-Lantern’ though Ren remembered the persona identifying itself as a Crypt-dwelling Pyromaniac beforehand.

“Arsene, ravage them!” the authority Ren held behind the command belied the fact that he had only recently reawakened his persona. Luckily for him, only Ryuji and Kamoshida’s shadow was left to witness it.

‘Ugh! What is this…’ Ren felt distinctly weaker than he remembered. He could not recall exactly how weak he was during his awakening, but he remembered that he was not this weak when fighting on the Cruiser of Pride.

‘It looks like I’m back to square one…’

“You little…” Kamoshida approached only to be toppled by a Ryuji going for a full-speed tackle.

Ryuji, finally on his feet gloated “You like that you son of a bitch!?”

“Lock the cell!” Ren directed his eyes to the keys that had been knocked off Kamoshida. Ryuji was quick to catch on to the plan and grabbed it himself and joined Ren to the dash outside the cell.

“Ok, it's locked!”

“Hey…! What was the just now!?” Ryuji couldn’t help but feel dumbstruck by the situation “And… your clothes…!?”

If Ren remembered correctly, this was about the moment where he’d lose control of his Persona abilities and revert to his normal appearance ‘Queue, normal…’ but it never did come.

“Huh, that’s new…” before he could collect his thoughts…

Kamoshida banged against the bars of the cell “You bastards!”

“Let’s talk someplace else” Ren sighed as he turned to Ryuji, the blonde boy still wearing a bewildered look on his face.

“Sure, lead the way!”


“Blondie! Frizzy Hair! Look over here!” Ren never felt so relieved to hear that familiar voice.

Ryuji yelped in surprise “What is this thing!?”

“You’re not soldiers of this castle, right!? Get me out of here!” A miniature anthropomorphic, bipedal tuxedo cat donning a bright yellow neck scarf.

“Look, the key’s right there!” Ren immediately reaches out to where the not-cat was pointing at.

“We’re trying to get the hell out of here—” Ryuji began protesting only to see Ren already opened the door. “What the hell, man!?”

“Ahh… Freedom tastes so great…” the tiny not-cat stretched its little limbs as it walked out of its cell.

The odd not-cat creature turned to its savior to offer gratitude “Thanks, Frizzy Hair!”

The blond boy resigned to how things were going, slumped mildly forwards “Alright Monster Cat, can you at least point us to the direction of the exit?”

“Don’t call me a cat! I am Morgana!”

Ren could not help but release a chuckle at the Chariot and Magician’s exchange. Despite the somewhat dire situation they were all caught in, he could not feel more relieved to see the two of them act as they always did.

“Lead the way, Morgana!”

He had missed this.


After a trip down memory lane and an unwarranted lesson from Morgana on how to fight shadows, the trio made their way to the room with the useful ventilation shaft. Ryuji still sat flat on his ass after his poor yet comical attempt of dislodging the grille. Ren spared Morgana a content yet somehow smug smile before bidding him goodbye.

“See you later, Morgana”

“Huh? What do you mean later—”

Though the two teenagers were already gone by then.

“You have returned to the real world. Welcome back.”

Ryuji and Ren found themselves in the middle of the sidewalk where the black-haired boy recalled the MetaNav had been first activated. The blonde boy started complaining about the situation, Kamoshida, the weird cat that wasn’t a cat and all but his black-haired partner could only think of one thing after his second pass in the same situation.

‘Really, how did no one notice two teenagers just popping out into the middle of the street…’

That train of thought interrupted by the familiar cop that was approaching them.

“Cutting classes, are we?” as aggressive as Ren remembered, they really shouldn’t be wasting any time here…

“We were tryin’ to get to school, and we ended up at this weird castle!” Ryuji for his part started talking about something that would only have him taken away if he continued any further.

“Hand over your bag. You better not be doing any drugs.” The same aggressive officer spoke up again.

“Why would you think that?”

The other officer finally spoke up, asking Ren instead of the blonde boy “Are you his friend?”

“Yeah, we just got… lost on our way to school.” Ren offered apologetically, he just wanted to get to Shujin Academy at this rate.

“Well, off you two go then. You two are late enough as is by the looks of it.” the timid officer of the two practically dismisses the teens.

“Hey what—wait a minute!” before Ryuji could even finish his complaint, Ren had already grabbed him by the arm and began dragging him along.

“Let’s go.” the words carried such an air of authority that Ryuji subconsciously relented and went along with his new apparent friend.

“Really, alright fine…”


Meeting with Kawakami-sensei and general introductions went as expected. His criminal record got leaked and everybody already escalated the rumors to astonishing proportions.

‘Ah, this does make feel right at home.’ Ren wore an impassive yet smug face as he exited the classroom. Kawakami followed shortly after and aired a few complaints about the situation she found herself in, being responsible for a kid with a record.

“You should head straight home without stopping by anywhere. Sakura-san sounded pretty angry.” partly a lecture and a warning, knowing her true nature from the past made this much more tolerable this time around.

“Oh, and about Sakamoto-kun. Don’t get involved—” she began as the topic of the one-sided conversation approached. “Speak of the devil…”

“What do you want? I heard the police caught you cutting classes today.” Kawakami-sensei was already on the blonde’s case.

“Ugh… It was nothin’.” Ryuji for his part was quick to acquiesce, as he just wanted to speak to Ren.

“And you haven’t dyed your hair back to black either…”

“Sorry ‘bout that.” though his tone was anything but. Ryuji turned and began walking away though he whispered to Ren…

“…I’ll be waiting on the rooftop.”

Kamoshida and Principle Kobayakawa had an interesting discussion within the earshot of their subject. Ren noted it was nothing worth remembering though, one of them would be receiving their comeuppance soon enough. He instead put his focus on the dark-haired boy that had too many injuries to count.

‘Mishima…’ the boy was the first one out of all his confidants to realize he was a Phantom Thief and he’d never stop believing in them despite what everyone else said. ‘He kinda erred on from his path’ he mused.

‘Well… that doesn’t have to happen twice.’

Turning away and climbing the stairs up towards the rooftop brought back nostalgic feelings. Besides the rumormongering going around that he could hear plain as day, returning to the first hideout the thieves had established had Ren reminiscing back to the original founding four members of the team.

Opening the door to the roof showed Ryuji already waiting, seated but extremely fidgety as he turned his attention to the newcomer.

“Sorry for callin’ you up here like this.” Ryuji put his feet down from the table he had propped it upon.

Ren smiled; it was good to speak to his friend again after all that had transpired. “No problem, I wanted to talk to you too.”

“I bet Kawakami already told you stuff like ‘don’t get involved with him’, huh?” Ren nodded.

“She said you were trouble, but then again, so am I.” Ren offered his right hand curled into a fist to Ryuji.

He returned the gesture, bumping each other’s fists “Heh you’re right, we’re pretty much in the same boat.”

“I heard you got a criminal record. Everyone’s talking about it.”

“I know, nobody here even tries to hide that they’re talking about it.” Ryuji looks as if he wants to apologize but is cut off “Even when I’m in earshot.”

“It all kinda funny though.” Ren let mirthful laughter escape his lips ‘Better this than having to pretend I’m dead, that’s for sure…’

Ryuji for his part was unsure how to take that laugh. It didn’t seem like the black-haired boy appeared to be all that bothered about it. He turned serious, remembering why he had called him up to the roof.

“…What was all that that happened? You know, how we almost got killed at a castle…”

‘What do I say…’ he had not given this moment much though. He wanted things to change, that much he knew, but how to go about it he hadn’t exactly decided. Pretending he didn’t know anything was a possibility…

‘Might as well start changing things now. It doesn’t matter if I know as long as they don’t know exactly how I know.” He continued to contemplate ‘I mean, how do I even explain how I know this stuff? Hello guys, you see I’m from the future where I lead you to your deaths and some blue-haired cyclops boy made me sign something that sent me back to the past?’

‘That’ll go well…’

“It wasn’t a dream… right? You remember it too, yeah?” Ryuji continued, not entirely sure what to make of their prior experience.

“Yeah, that was a Palace.” Ren bluntly delivered it raw. ‘No sugarcoating.’

“A what? A Palace, you mean the castle?” Ryuji busted out surprised as he now stood on his feet “Wait… how do you know that? What’s even going on!?”

“Well, it's not my first time in one…” Ryuji just continued staring at him, dumbfounded at the revelation.

“Whatever that was, you saved me from Kamoshida.” Ryuji slowly started, giving his best to show his gratitude.

“So yeah… Thanks, Renren”

Ren’s eyes are as wide a saucers “Renren?” he doesn’t remember having a nickname that embarrassing last time.

“What, don’t like it?”

The black-haired boy sported the largest, genuine smile since he came back to the past “The opposite.”

“If you really want to know more about Palaces though, asking Morgana is the way to go.”

“You mean that weird cat-like thing… Wait you also want to go back in there? That whatcha call it, Palace?” Ryuji was thinking the same… if it wasn’t a dream, which it wasn’t according to the resident expert beside him.

“Yeah, you up for it?”

“Hell yeah dude! I need to know what was going on with that sick pervert’s head.” excitement gathered all around the blonde “…and seeing if the cat is doing well wouldn’t hurt…” he quietly added at the end.

“We’ll do it tomorrow, I’m beat.”

“Same. I feel like we’re gonna get along just fine as troublemakers.”


While heading back to LeBlanc, Ren felt like these nostalgia trips weren’t going to stop. Not that he wanted them to stop though, in fact, he welcomed life to keep giving it to him.

‘Boss still isn’t too fond of me from what I remember…’

“It’s only your first day and you’re already showing up hours late?” scolding session already begun.

“It was an… accident.” Ren lamely gave out. There wasn’t much he could say that wouldn’t make things worse. So he just let Boss ramble on ‘no need to make it any harder on either of us.’

“And here I thought you left on time this morning…” disappointment littered the older man’s face. While Ren knew this would happen and how Sojiro was like at the start, it didn’t hurt any less to see him like that.

“Look, just behave yourself.” he continued “Your life’s forfeit if anything happens. You understand the meaning of probation, right?”

“I do, got it.” Ren nodded, there wasn’t more that he needed to say.

“Ok, then” the ringing of a cellphone was quickly answered by Sojiro.

“Hey, what’s up?” his mood brightened significantly when he took the call “…Yeah, I just closed shop. I’ll be there in half an hour.”

‘Huh, I wonder if that’s Futaba calling…’

“Hey, what’re you standing around for? Go hurry up to bed.”

‘Thinking back to where we started to what he was like towards the end, harboring a supposedly dead fugitive, he really is just one big softie.’ Ren felt content as he climbs the stairs and prepared to go to sleep.


“About time you’ve come to…” the bossy voice, young and naïve rang in his ear ‘Caroline?’

“On your feet, Inmate!” she slammed the bars with her iron rod ‘Definitely Caroline…’

A softer voice reaches out to him “Our master wishes to speak with you. It’s for your own sake that you take his words to heart.”

‘And Justine’

And at the center of the room, the long-nosed proprietor of the Velvet Room, Igor. This too felt comforting, or as comfortable as one can be inside a prison cell.

“First off, let us celebrate our reunion.” Ren’s felt his heart stop, did Igor already know

“Oh, You’ve awakened to your powers. And special ones at that.” Another beat skipped, did he truly know the gravitas of the situation.

“Your rehabilitation can finally begin.”

“Do you—” his tongued stopped short. ‘Don’t you dare finish that sentence.’ a voice other than Ren’s own echoed within his mind. It was familiar, yet not for any reason that he could point towards.

“There is no need to understand it all for the time being.” Igor continued regaling him with the empty platitudes.

“You will be training the power of Persona, which you have awakened to.” All of this, information Ren was already privy too.

“Personas are in other words, a ‘mask’—an armor of the heart when confronting worldly matters.” If the inmate could speak his mind, he would but the echoing warning continues to haunt him.

“I have high expectations for you.”

‘What is going on?’ is what Ren had wanted to ask.

“What do you mean?” is what exited his mouth instead.

“There is no need to worry. You will learn when the time comes.”

‘I’m worrying right now, how am I lacking so much control of my own body?’ if panic could spread on his face, it would’ve. It, however, did not for seemingly the same reason as before.

The long-nosed man turned his attention elsewhere “By the by… have you come to appreciate the Metaverse Navigator?”

“Using it will allow you to come and go between reality and Palaces.”

“…I bestowed it upon you as a means to train you as a thief.”

“The Metaverse Navigator is a gift from our master! You better take care in using it, Inmate!” Caroline butted in, reminding him just how noisy the girl could be.

“Devote yourself to your trying so that you may become a fine thief.” Justine really was her sister’s counterpart.

“It must be disheartening to make use of the Metaverse Navigator alone.”

‘I’ll never be alone again…’

“Should there be others who prove beneficial to you, I will grant it to them as well.”

“This is all for you to grow as a most excellent thief…” Igor stopped, seemingly as if time in this odd dream had run short.

“Hmph, it’s time. Go back and enjoy whatever rest you might have…” Caroline offered kind parting words, for her standards.

‘Advice…’ The mysterious voice made its presence known again ‘Don’t share anything with Igor.’

The foreign voice, alongside his consciousness, slowly drifted off to rest.

‘Stopping you this time was tiring enough…’


Tuesday, 12th of April 2016
Shibuya Station, Shibuya
Morning

The visit to the Velvet Room last night still floated inside the black-haired, bespectacled boy’s mind. His inability to fully control his body at that time was more than disconcerting, it was utterly mortifying. The mysterious voice sounded familiar, though trying to recall where he had heard it before only left him empty.

He continued ruminating in his thoughts as he approached the subway platform.

“Hey, isn’t that the transfer student?” audible whispering from Shujin students was easy enough to pick up for Ren. He was experienced in it after all.

‘Huh, more idle chatter about me…’ surprisingly enough, it was outside Shujin this time.

“Yeah, the one with the red ribbon. Isn’t she that scholarship student?” another Shujin student thinking they’re inconspicuous continued “I wonder what she got it for…”

Now that caught Ren’s attention, he wasn’t aware of a rumor ladened transfer student other than himself.

‘Red ribbon?’

She immediately captured his eye, a girl that kept her hair tied back into a ponytail with the red ribbon.

‘Did I just miss her the first time around?’ Ren pondered as the train arrived at the platform.

The train stopped and the announcement rang across their area in the subway ‘Seems unlikely given the voracity of Shujin’s rumor mill.’

‘…and I don’t know how I could possibly miss someone like her…’ the train was packed enough already even without the student though Red Ribbon-chan was able to find a seat for herself.

‘She reminds me of someone…’  

“What?” Ren audible wondered to hear his voice. He hoped to hear his own voice this time and not whatever mystery passenger has set up camp in his mind since last night.

‘Are these even my own thoughts…?’

“Go ahead, take my seat.” his head sprung up at that sweet voice. He saw it came from Red Ribbon-chan.

‘So that’s what she sounds like…’

‘Huh, familiar…’

“Get out of my head!” the black-haired boy clenched his fists in frustration. Only one of the two audible inner voices were genuinely his. One of these was not his own, another mortifying thought to add on the counter.

“I’m getting off soon anyway.” the redhead offered her seat to an elderly woman from what he could make out, his head still clouded from whatever was going own with his thoughts.

“Really!? I’ll take it, thank you, young lady.” as she stood up and prepared to give her seat to the elder. A sleazy man in a suit rushed over and took the seat in her place.

Red Ribbon-chan yelped in surprise “How agile!”

‘Is she… complimenting the seat thief?’

“Sorry, but that seat is for—” before she could even finish her sentence, the seat thief already dozed off.

Ren couldn’t stand it anymore and interjected: “Aren’t you going to tell him off?”

“It's okay, I wouldn’t mean to impose.” though, by the looks of it, it was the selfish man the imposed first.

“It’s alright, young lady.”

“At least let me carry your bags for you.”

“Will you now? Thank you, young lady.” the elderly woman handed over her bags over to the redhead who nearly toppled over after receiving all of it. She quickly bounced back and rebalanced herself as if it was no problem at all.

‘Cute.’

‘Cute.’

“Oh great, now we’re agreeing…”

The announcement for the next stop near Shujin Academy blared over the systems and it was the students’ queue to prepare to leave. Disembarking and setting course for Shujin Academy, he took a couple of steps—

“Hey!” before Ren could even leave the station “thanks for the help earlier!” the redhead had already caught up after helping the elderly woman.

Perplexed best described Ren’s face at that moment “What did I do?”

“You spoke up when that man took the seat…”

“So I’d just like to thank you, Senpai!” she bowed deeply before giving a hearty wave,

“Goodbye!”

‘Definitely too memorable to have missed her last time…’


The school was the same old, same old. Whilst he didn’t retain the power of the personas he had built before, the skills he had gained through constantly undergoing the Big Bang Burger Challenge and the like seemed to have been retained.

‘Should I even wonder why?’

“Yo.” Ryuji waited outside the school gate.

“What’s up?” Ren smirked, already knowing what was coming.

“I wanna talk about that Palace thing you mentioned.”

The bespectacled boy pulled out his phone “Want to go in now?”

Excitement could be seen from Ryuji's eyes “For real!? We can go in just like that?”

“Well… it’d better if we were at least somewhat discreet about it”

Now the blonde was oddly jumpy about things “Huh? Why?”

“Wouldn’t want to drag in anyone we didn’t want to over there…” that managed to calm him down a bit. Ren for his part recalled the one-time Ann had been caught in the Metaverse accidentally, better not to have a repeat of that.

“Gotcha, ready whenever you are!” Ren leads the blonde to a secluded alley and prepared to begin navigation.

Browsing through the MetaNav’s history…

“Kamoshida… Shujin Academy… Pervert… Castle…” the mechanical voice of the app began its routine.

“Beginning navigation.”

Reality warps and once again Shujin Academy distorts to reveal Kamoshida’s cognition of the school. A castle.

“It’s the castle from yesterday!” Ryuji sprinted through the drawbridge towards the large entrance of the castle.

“It’s just like yesterday… those clothes!” the blonde’s attention turns away from the school turned castle to Ren and his new clothes.

“What’s with that outfit?”

Ren regretted not saying this last time so nothing better than the present “You jelly?”

“I-I ain’t jealous!” Ryuji sputtered out, failing to mask the truth.

“What’s going on here, this makes no effin’ sense at all!”

“Hey, you did come back!” the not-cat yet cat-like creature peered over the corner and walked over to the two teenagers.

“Also stop making a commotion, Blondie.”

Ryuji rubbed his eyes in disbelief “Morgana?”

“The shadows started acting up, so I came here wondering what it could be…” Morgana’s pleasure returned quickly when he turned away from Ryuji and towards the black-haired boy.

“To think you two would come back to the entrance after yesterday…”

“What the heck is this place? …Is it the school?”

‘Might as well leave this to Morgana for now…’ Ren contemplated it would be better if he matched his understanding of the Palaces to that of Morgana. Though, in truth, he only did it to enjoy seeing Ryuji and Morgana bicker once more.

“That’s right.” Morgana nodded knowingly.

“But, it’s a castle!”

“This castle is a school… but only to the castle’s ruler.”

Ryuji appeared to be deep in thought… or just lost “The castle’s ruler?”

“I think you called him Kamoshida?”

“It’s how his distorted heart views the school.”

“Kamoshida… Distorted…?”

“Explain it in a way that makes sense!” giving up entirely, he turns his head towards Ren instead.

Ren complied this time “Think of it as what Kamoshida really thinks of the school, students and all included”

Before Ryuji could comment, a bloodcurdling scream came from inside the castle.

“What was that!”

“It must be the slaves kept captive here.”

“For real!?”

“Oh, shit… it's for real!”

Wide-eyed, Ryuji comes to a realization “We saw other guys held captive here yesterday… I’m pretty sure they’re from our school.”

“Most likely on Kamoshida’s orders. It’s not out of the ordinary; it’s like that every day here.” Morgana confirmed Ryuji’s fear even further.

“What’s more, you two escaped yesterday. He must have lost his temper quite a bit.”

“That son of a bitch…!”

“Ryuji?” the not-cat voiced genuine concern for the blonde.

“…This is bullshit!”

Ryuji tackles the front entrance with a running start.

“You hear me Kamoshida!?”

“Doing that isn’t going to open it, you know…”

Having calmed down just a bit, Ryuji walks away from the entrance “Hey Morgana, do you know where those voices are comin’ from…?”

Before Morgana could answer, Ren intervened before Ryuji got in too much trouble on

“Ryuji… I know what you’re thinking, but we can’t save these people.”

“What!? You’re just gonna leave them here.” Ryuji could not believe what he was hearing from him.

Morgana looked up at Ren with shining eyes as he followed up on him “We can’t save them because they’re not real. They’re products of Kamoshida’s cognition…”

“Kamoshida’s… cognition…?”

“It means it's just what he thinks of the students… the actual student should still be in reality, in school.” Ren confirms.

“But… dammit!” Ryuji stomped his foot on the ground, frustration emanating from his whole body.

Ren smiled weakly, deeply empathizing what Ryuji was feeling for those cognitive copies “Still… it would be good to know just exactly what Kamoshida thinks of the students.”


After stealthily surveying the castle and finding the location of ‘Kamoshida’s Training Hall of Love’ the trio were prepared to leave after seeing the extent of Kamoshida’s decadency.

“Dammit! This is bullshit!” Ryuji slammed his fist into a nearby wall in frustration.

“Ryuji, we can help them but not from in here.” Ren laid his hand of Ryuji shoulder “I have a plan.”

The trio continued moving forward towards the exit as Morgana stared at Ren, a question burning on his tongue.

“So why did you even come here?”

Ren turned to the small creature whilst his eyes dulled to the reality of it all once again “To see exactly what I’m fighting for…”

The trio fell silent afterward, avoiding any patrols they could whilst eliminating any else that stood in the way. The entrance hall of the castle getting closer and closer to Ren’s memory of his previous excursion in the Palace.

‘I’m not leading him to trap… am I?’ doubts start creeping into his mind as Ren knew exactly what would transpire as soon as they would enter the main hall.

‘This is okay right?’ obviously no answer, he was alone in his head after all…

‘Morgana and I fight, we get beaten back, and Ryuji awakens his persona…’

Whilst drawn away to his thoughts, the trio reached the main hall faster than Ren had anticipated.

‘What? This is too soon… Ryuji…’

“…You knaves again?” Kamoshida’s Shadow steps forward, obstructing their path. His attire still as disturbing to look at as it was before.

“How far the star runner of the track team has fallen.”

Ryuji couldn’t take that lying down “What the hell are you getting’ at?”

“I speak of the ‘Track Traitor’ who acted in violence, ending his teammates’ dreams.” Kamoshida began waxing lyrical “Oh, I can only imagine the pain of the others who were dragged under with your selfish act…”

The blonde is stunned speechless at the reminder “Ngh…”

Ren grabs Ryuji's shoulder “Shut up!” and points at Kamoshida.

“I don’t know what happened… but don’t pretend like you had nothing to do with it Kamoshida!” though he did know the extent of Kamoshida’s abuse, words of encouragement followed out without prompt from Ren

“The blonde troublemaker’s my friend and the first person in this godforsaken school to give a rat’s ass about who I truly am so you better shut your trap before I nail it for you!”

Ryuji’s stood shocked at the declaration from a boy he just met yesterday but something deep inside him told him his words rang true. He felt his head pang in pain as an unknown power began welling from deep within. Morgana leapt forward and held an empty arm forward. 

“Ryuji, we’ll handle this!”

“No, I can… I will help!”

‘Wait… what is happening?’ Ren was left bewildered, distinctly remembering this is not how Ryuji had awakened last time.

“You made me wait quite a while”

“You seek power, correct? Then let us form a pact.”

“Since your name has been disgraced already, why not hoist the flag and wreak havoc…?”

“The other ‘you’ that resides within desires it thus…”

“I am thou, thou art I…”

“There is no turning back…”

“The skull of rebellion is your flag henceforth!”

A skull mask appears on Ryuji’s forehead and he instinctively ripped it off resulting in a pillar of blue flame to rise and consume him to dissipate moments later. Ryuji walked forward, revealing his thief outfit. A black jacket with matching black trousers, a bright red ascot tied around his neck, and distinctive yellow gloves.

“Right on… wassup, Persona…” power practically flowed through and from Ryuji as he prepared to join the fray “This effin’ rocks”

“Now that I got this power, it’s time to pay you back for yesterday, Renren.”

A light blush formed on Ren’s cheeks as he begins to protest “Can you not call me that right now?”

“Can you not call me that right now?”

The golden armored knight exclaims “Don’t mock me you brat!” before erupting into a black mass and coalescing back into red-armored mounted cavalryman. The imposing figure proceeded to summon to smaller equine creatures with two horns.

“You ready, Ryuji, Morgana?”

“Yeah!” The two of them, in a rare moment, responded in unison.

“Alright, Ryuji focus on using Zio on the smaller horses.” Ryuji nodded and readied Captain Kidd.

“Let’s get rid of the stragglers before moving on to the real threat”

“Captain Kidd!” bolts of lightning descended on the Bicorn immediately removing the threat and proceeding to do the same to the remaining one.

“Morgana, keep us topped up!” Ren ordered as he rushed in with his dagger, slashing at the leg of Eligor’s mount.

“Got it!”

“Zorro! Garu!” A small, localized whirlwind coalesced around the red knight and nearly toppled him over. He, however, stood tall and aimed his spear squarely at Ren and galloped forward, dealing a near mortal blow.

“Ren!” the two teammates two his sides filled with rage at the sight of Ren’s wounding.

“Zorro! Dia!” a recovery spell enveloped Ren, restoring his combat health to manageable levels.

Ryuji swung his trusty pipe hard enough to land a destructive blow allowing him to follow up with “Captain Kidd! Let’s give em’ hell!”

A bolt of lightning descends from above, nearly reducing Eligor to nothing.

“I am… a loyal subject… of the glorious King Kamoshida…” Eligor begins muttering as its end is nigh “So why… have I lost…?”

“It just proves that Kamoshida ain’t anything special!”

“So, Ryuji had the potential too…”

“I told you this is my castle… It seems you still don’t understand.”

A scantily clad platinum blonde girl dressed only in a skimpy purple bikini walks into view.

“Wh— Takamaki?”

“Ryuji, she’s just a cognition in this place like those slaves…”

“But still… doesn’t that mean he treats Takamaki like this in the real world?”

“Whether its all right or no, this shit is messed up! Let go of her you perv!”

Ryuji pulls out his pipe and tosses it at the cognitive Takamaki, destroying her from the ruler’s cognition if only temporarily.

A scowl grows on Kamoshida’s face as soon as the cognitive Takamaki disappears “Guards, seize them!” more knightly guards between Kamoshida and the three, outnumbering the trio.

“Ryuji, we can’t keep fighting!” Morgana states the facts. All three of the persona users are exhausted from the recent battle

Offended at the idea, Ryuji protests “We’re just gonna run?”

“We can’t die here!” Ren orders harshly, exhaustion leaking into his voice.

Finally relenting “Fine! But we’ll be back, you better be ready for us!” the three make a mad dash to leave the castle the same way they came in. As the two teenagers prepare to leave through the ventilation shaft, Morgana interrupts them.

“Wait. I guided you as promised, It’s your turn to cooperate with me.”

“That’s why I was super nice about teaching you idiots everything”

“Huh? Cooperate?” Ryuji asked.

Morgana begins his expository garble “Don’t you remember, I originally came here for an investigation.”

“I need to erase the distortion from my body and regain my real form!”

“That’s why we must delve deep into Mementos and—”

Skull cut him short “Whoa, what are you going on and on about?” scratched his head and explained his side simply “We never said anything about helping you out.”

“Huh? Don’t tell me… Are you not going to repay the hospitality I showed you?” Morgana looked devastated at the betrayal of his aid “Especially you! You’re going to up and leave, even though you're part of my master plan!?”

“Don’t worry, Morgana. We’ll come back to the Palace soon, it's part of my plan too…” Ren assured his future friend from the past “But for now, we’re beat so see you later!”

“Hey wait—” but before the not-cat could protest further, the two were long gone.


“Welcome to the Velvet Room”

“I thought about resuming our previous conversation tonight. That is why I’ve summoned you.”

“What are your thoughts? Are you becoming accustomed to this place?”

‘Don’t be stupid.’

“Yeah”

‘It’s happening again?’ Ren hated the lack of control. Given that the mysterious voice had once again managed to wrest control of his body.

‘Ok, you need to stop this right now.’

‘Stop what?’ a conversation began entirely within the mind of one Ren Amamiya.

‘What did I just say about not telling Igor anything?’ the voice’s tone would’ve been authoritative and intimidating… if he didn’t sound so apathetic to the situation.

‘Why should I listen to a disembodied voice in my head?’

‘Didn’t think the quality of wild cards could get this bad so fast…’

‘I don’t even know what that means… and who are you even supposed to be?’

‘Are you stupid, have you already forgotten who you signed a contract with?’

‘Blue-mop cyclops?’

‘Just for that comment… I’ll be taking over every time we’re in the Velvet Room’

‘Okay?’ Ren waited for a reply, but none ever came as he drifted to a dreamless sleep.


I am thou, thou art I
Thou hast acquired a new vow,

It shall become the wings of rebellion
that breaketh thy chains of captivity,

With the birth of the Universe Persona,
I have obtained the winds of blessing that
shall lead to freedom and new power…


UNIVERSE CONFIDANT

Rank 1 [Contracted]: A mysterious contractor can take control of the host for brief a period. The scope and impact of this ability is currently indeterminate.

Rank 3 [Master of Strings]: ~

Rank 5 [Fusion Raid]: ~

Rank 7 [Door of Hades]: ~

Rank 9 [Memento Mori]: ~

Rank 10 [Redeemer]: ~

Chapter Text

Wednesday, 13th of April 2016
Shujin Academy, Aoyama Itchome
Morning

Ren awoke with barely any recollection from the events that transpired in the Velvet Room after that odd conversation… with the voice inside his head?

‘I must be going crazy’

Turning his thoughts away from the oddity that was his new roommate living rent-free inside his head. Instead, he turned his attention towards what little he could remember of today’s events. It was the scheduled volleyball rally where Kamoshida would spend the entire day stroking his ego against a bunch of teenagers.

The trek to Shujin was fairly uneventful today as he tuned out the numerous complaints the students had against the volleyball rally.

‘It sounds like only Kamoshida is looking forward to this…’


The gymnasium roared with the sound of sneakers on a well-polished floor and volleyballs getting rallied between the net. Despite that, there was little life in the court except for Kamoshida and his team. Students lined up to get pummelled at volleyball and if they were unlucky, they’d get pummelled with a volleyball too.

Ryuji wasn’t even paying attention to the joke of a game on the court and instead laid his eyes on Ann, the image of her cognitive form in Kamoshida’s Palace still fresh in his mind. The blonde boy couldn’t help but have his cheeks blush at the memory… no matter how angry it made him.

“Still sticks out… Hasn’t changed a bit.”

“Who?” His mumbling caught the attention of the boy sat beside him, Ren “Oh, you’ve got your eye on Takamaki?”

Ren couldn’t help but tease the blonde boy about her, given his memories from what had transpired. Ryuji wasn’t too interested in Ann from what he recalled, but he wasn’t completely uninterested either. Ren smirked and decided to push his buddy’s buttons just a bit more.

“Was that why you were so mad in the Palace yesterday?”

Impressively, Ryuji blushed and became somewhat bashful “S-Shut up, we just went to the same middle school! It’s not like that!”

Ryuji took a deep breath ‘She’s just Ann, calm down me…”

‘This is Ryuji… right?’ a single raised and questioning brow was offered on Ren’s face.

Their thoughts were cut short by a loud crashing noise. Mishima’s head had received a full-powered spike from Kamoshida and had left the boy collapsed on the ground.

“Hey, are you all right!?” Kamoshida spouted concern for the boy he just toppled over with his spike. Ren already knew what that perverted coach truly thought of Mishima which just made the sight even more sickly.

“Someone! Take him to the nurse's office!”

Ren stood up before Kamoshida even finished that sentence and prodded Ryuji to follow suit.

“For real?” Ren just gave a single nodded “Ugh, fine then… leader” he smirked at the jab, knowing how right Ryuji would be in a few days.

The two of them took Mishima off Kamoshida’s hands and carried the boy to the nurse's office with little hassle.

“So why are we the ones doing this?”

“Don’t you notice those injuries Mishima has?” Ren let the blonde boy take a moment to look at the unconscious Mishima. The facial bruising was obvious enough, but the swelling indicated repeated stress that wasn’t given time to heal before the next training session.

“He’s one of Kamoshida… subjects.” Ren whispers the last word to the best of his ability.

Ryuji’s eyes widen at the revelation “Shit…”

“Wha’ do we do then? You said you had a plan, right?” the blonde boy expectantly looked at Ren. Though it sounded like he was just plain excited to get into the Palace again.

“Well… we’d need to meet up with Morgana again…” Ren pondered out loud “There’s also the issue of prepping…”

“Yeah those Palaces are death traps” Ryuji nodded sagely, almost as if he’d been doing this for months now.

A frown grew on Ren’s face as he remembered the future’s past ‘Don’t I know it…’

“Oh, I know a killer place we can go to get some gear.” Ryuji excitedly spoke up, most likely referring to, Untouchable, Iwai’s airsoft shop.

“And I know where we can get some meds to keep us… topped up.”

“You alright with stocking up the gear by yourself for now? We’re kinda short on hands.”

“No problem, dude!”

Ryuji and Ren left Mishima in the nurse’s office and kept quiet as they laid him down. No need to drag any more attention to two delinquents and an injured kid. No need to give the rumour mill any more ammunition as one would say.

‘I can imagine it now: Track Traitor and Criminal beat up defenceless volleyball player.’ he thought that would’ve deserved a chuckle if it weren’t so accurate.

Something however bothered Ren as the pair walked towards the school gate…

“Hey… you’re just following what I’m saying without even asking what we’re going to do?”

Ryuji shrugged nonchalantly, not finding anything odd at all “Yeah? Seems like you know what you’re doing.”

Didn’t answer much for Ren still “Why though, I’m just a new guy.”

“Don’t mean to go all sappy on you dude… but what you said yesterday to Kamoshida’s shadow…” Ryuji sighed it out despite wearing a rather pleased smile between every word.

The two stopped walking as soon as they reached the school’s gate. “It hit deep, ya’ know?”

“There’s no way you can be a bad guy if you said that ‘bout me.” the blonde boy confessed while simultaneously offering his fist out to Ren.

Ren bumps his fist with the blonde’s “Heh, you really are one of a kind, Ryuji.”


I am thou, thou art I
Thou hast acquired a new vow,

It shall become the wings of rebellion
that breaketh thy chains of captivity,

With the birth of the Chariot Persona,
I have obtained the winds of blessing that
shall lead to freedom and new power…


Thursday, 14th of April 2016
Shujin Academy, Aoyoma Itchome
After School

Ren left LeBlanc utterly groggy, he still had not recovered from last night’s clinical trial. Whatever was in that medicine she made him drink was truly vile to most of his senses. He did, however, successfully secure their medical supplies for their future incursion into the Metaverse…

‘Hope Ryuji’s trip to Untouchable went okay…’

The trip to school was overall uneventful though his mind was racing at what this day meant. The 14th of April was their first encounter with Morgana outside the Metaverse. He could only hope things didn’t change enough for the not-cat creature to still appear in the same place once more.

Checking the time on his phone, it looked right about the time for Morgana to appear. He just needed to wait by the vending machines, preferably make some noise with Ryuji to attract Morgana’s attention.

“…What?” A soft-spoken girl was blocking the exit to the courtyard.

Upon closer inspection, she looked like a member of the volleyball team if the injuries were to go by “Oh… I’m in the way, aren’t I? Sorry…”

“Are you hurt?”

“Huh?” discomfort littered her face as soon as she heard the inquiry “Uh, well…”

“Hm, you don’t look familiar.” she quickly finds another topic to, the previous one too much to bear by the looks of it.

“Could you be that transfer student from Class D?”

Ren nods. At least this question was directed at him instead of idle rumours that were loud enough to be within earshot.

“Um, this might not be any of my business, but don’t let the rumours get to you, Ok…?”

‘Who is she…?’ was someone this kind to him this early on at Shujin Academy. ‘Why can’t I remember her… or is she like that redheaded kouhai I met the day before?’

“Why do you say that…?” Ren returns with another question.

“Well, I’ve helped with a similar situation before…” her eyes are filled with melancholy, seemingly recalling something from her past.

“…My best friend is misunderstood too, all because of her looks…”

“Ah, sorry. I didn’t mean to drag on like that.” She bowed apologetically “Anyway, I have to go to practice… I’ll see you around.”

“…Yeah, see you…”

Ren walked outside to the courtyard where he’d agree to meet Ryuji. Still, that girl…

‘Why do I feel like I’m forgetting something…’

“So what are we waiting around here for.” Ren hadn’t noticed he’d already arrived at their agreed spot. Ryuji was already there lounging around impatiently, clearly itching to go back into the Palace.

“Oh, it's you, Ryuji.” Ren cleared his mind of that girl for now. “Don’t worry about it, he’ll be here soon.”

Ryuji was lost, which was normal, but also fun for Ren to play with “Who do you mean?”

“Oh, keep making a commotion that’ll make it much easier for him to find us.” the bespectacled boy snickered under his breath.

“Dude, I’m so lost here…”

“I finally found you two!” A familiar voice called out to them.

‘Right on time…’

“Don’t think you can get away with not paying me back for not helping you.” also he still sounded as haughty as ever.

“Sorry ‘bout that Morgana, I meant to go back in earlier but forgot that I don’t even know how to contact you.” Ren apologized, bowing to the cat on the table.

“Wait… Is that you, Morgana?” Ryuji suspension of disbelief was coming closer to jumping out.

“Obviously!”

“The cat’s talkin’!?” the blonde boy, however, wasn’t ready to throw it out wholesale just yet.

“I am NOT a cat! This is just what happened when I came to this world!” Morgana, the cat, protested indignantly “It was a lot of trouble finding you two.”

“Wait… You came to our world!?” Ryuji found another incredulous fact to latch on “Does that mean you’ve got a phone!?”

“No of course not, Ryuji.” the bespectacled boy, however, could not let this opportunity slide.

“Thank you—”

“Obviously, he has a tiny cat-phone” Ren would apologize if he had any remorse, which he left in place of the joke.

“Indeed… Wait!? How dare you!” Morgana, still nodding from the previous vote of confidence came to a halt.

“Hehehe…” a burst of laughter reminiscent of a certain orange-haired gremlin escape from Ren.

Though he regained his composure rather quickly. “Either way…”

“This isn’t the best place to talk.” Ryuji looked around and spotted multiple other students, as well as groundskeepers talking about a cat that had snuck in.

“Morgana, take a ride in my bag.” Ren offered, already unzipping it open.

Ryuji agreed immediately “Oh right, he’s small enough to fit!”

“Hey! Don’t I get a say in this—” complaints were left as muffled meows as the two left the courtyard.

Oh, this feeling truly is bliss.

Morgana in his bag made the world feel a little more right.


“…Don’t be so rough with me!”

Ren couldn’t help but tease the little magician “Didn’t enjoy my bag?”

“Enough of that!” Ryuji decided to be the voice of reason “So, Renren, what’s this plan then?”

Ren started “We have to attack the castle, more specifically steal his treasure.”

“…How’d you know about that?” Morgana was awed. Not only was this frizzy-haired kid already experienced with personas but Palaces too?

“I’ve been to Palaces before… though I probably don’t understand how they work as well as you do.”

Morgana was practically starry-eyed at Ren “Amazing… I knew I was right about choosing you!”

“Morgana? Hello, explanation?” Ren snapped his fingers to bring the cat back to reality.

“Ehem, the castle is how he views the school and it's deeply connected to his heart.”

Ren interjected, to allay any fears Ryuji might have left “—Despite him knowing nothing about what occurs inside.”

Morgana continued “Thus if the castle disappears, it would impact the real Kamoshida.”

“How?” Ryuji had a hard time following the concepts, doubly so since it was being explained by a cat.

“A Palace is a manifestation of a person’s distorted desires…” Morgana expounded as if giving a lecture. A palace, after all, is a simple matter when boiled down to its most important component: desire. “So, if that castle goes his desires go along with it.”

“For real!? H-He’s gonna turn good!?” That caught his attention, but a frown followed immediately after “But… is that really gettin’ back at him?”

“Erasing a Palace essentially means forcing the owner to have a change of heart.”

Morgana continued his expository rambling “However, even though their warped desires disappear, the crimes they committed remain.”

“Kamoshida will become unable to bear the weight of those crimes, and he'll confess them himself!” the conviction held behind his words left Ren perplexed. Morgana was a pretty confident amnesiac.

“You for real? That’s possible!?” the blonde expressed honest surprise. They could get back to Kamoshida and help everyone he abused? It was practically perfect!

“And since the Palace will no longer exist, he’ll forget what we did in there as well.”

“Not only will we be able to bring Kamoshida down, but there won’t even be a trace of our involvement.”

Ryuji couldn’t help but pet Morgana “That’s amazing! You are one incredible cat!”

“True, except for the cat part!” he purred, not that he would ever admit it of course.

The blonde couldn’t hold his jitters “So, how do we get rid of the palace?”

“By stealing the Treasure held within.”

Ryuji didn’t sound the like of that “Stealing…?”

“A Treasure, in this case, is the manifestation of a ruler’s distorted desires.” Ren decided to jump in this time.

And he continued with his own exposition “There is the complication that erasing desires come with the potential of…”

Morgana finished for the bespectacled boy “Desires are what we need to survive, without it then we’d be no different from someone who has completely shut down.”

“…in short, they might die if we aren’t careful.”

“They might die…!?” the blonde’s excitement took a complete 180, he wasn’t about to become a murder.

“Not necessarily…” Ren, however, was already quite experienced as technically this would be his eighth palace.

Morgana couldn’t help but be surprised as Ren’s knowledge “You know something!?”

“A complete shutdown is only triggered when we eliminate the Palace ruler. Leave them be whilst still stealing the treasure and no permanent harm comes to them in reality.”

“For real!?”

The feline couldn’t help but be in awe once more “How’d you know all this?”

“I could ask you the same thing…” Ren muttered under his breath, quiet enough not to be heard by the other two “Though, as I’ve said before… I’ve been inside Palaces before.”

Morgana nodded at that, not prying any more as the other two teens had done the same for him so far.

“So, are you two up for it?”

“I always was.” Ren folded his arms, somewhat offended at the thought that he wouldn’t do it despite helping Morgana explain Palaces.

“If this dude thinks it’ll work, then no reason for me not to!” Ryuji put his arm over Ren’s shoulder and gave a thumbs up.

“Excellent, I’ll meet up with you two tomorrow and we can begin our infiltration.” Morgana leaped off the table he was on.

“Wait!” Ren wasn’t going to let Morgana go that easily now that he was back.

The frizzy-haired boy couldn’t let Morgana go, not after he just got him back too “You’re hard enough to find, why don’t you stay with me?”

“Oh, you’re taking him to your place?” Ryuji jumped in on the conversation “Can I come too?”

“Uh, sure? Don’t see why not.”

“Well, contacting you guys from inside a Palace would’ve been to impossible…” Morgana pretended to ponder Ren’s request “Staying with you sounds good.”

“Alright, we’re going to see Renren’s place!”


The pushing and pulling of the crowds at Shibuya were annoying enough and Morgana’s complaints from getting jockeyed around only compounded the issue. Ren’s phone vibrated as he received a message and he stopped at a place outside the rush of people.

“Is this how train stations always are!?” Morgana peered out of the bag at the first opportunity.

“Just caught it at an unlucky time… also, it looks like we lost Ryuji.” The blonde boy was nowhere to be found, not even a cursory glance at the nearby crowd showed anyone with dyed hair like his.

Ren took out his phone to check out the message.

[Ryuji Sakamoto]

Ryuji   Hey, sorry about ditching you there.

Ryuji   Saw Takamaki getting bothered by something.

Ryuji   Couldn’t leave her like that.

No problem, good luck. Ren

Ryuji   Thanks!

Ryuji   Wait, whadda you mean ‘good luck’?

With Ann. Ren

Ryuji   Shut up!

Ryuji   I already told you it ain’t like that.

[Ryuji Sakamoto]

Ren directed a genuine smile at his phone “Looks like we don’t have to worry.”

“Hm?” the cat in his bag wondered what it was about, he could guess it was about Ryuji but not any more than that.

“Let’s go home, Morgana.”


Earlier with Ryuji…

‘Dammit, I already lost them!’ Ryuji got separated from the other two earlier. He looked around to see if he could find someone that looked like them, but Ren was pretty difficult to tell from his head or clothes, given his unassuming attire.

“Will you please give it a rest!? I told you, I’m not feeling up to it…” A familiar girl’s voice reached his ears. The blonde boy turned his ears to where the voice came from and he immediately spotted someone he recognized, Ann Takamaki.

She was hard to miss with her platinum blonde hair styled into bushy pigtails, the hooded sweatshirt underneath her blazer, and the bright red tights.

“Wait, what…!? That’s not what you promised! And you call yourself a teacher!?” it looked like she was having a pretty intense conversation on the phone.

“This has nothing to do with Shiho!”

‘Shiho’s wrapped up in this too?’ only one name ran through Ryuji’s head when he thought of who that could’ve been on the other side: Kamoshida.

“Ah…” it looked like whoever was on the other side hung up. Takamaki curled down onto the ground. “Shiho’s… starting position…”

‘I can't effin’ ignore this!’ Ryuji walked towards her curled form and immediately forgot that he didn’t even know what he was going to say. Takamaki too notice quickly stepped back and up.

“Wait… Sakamoto! Were you listening?”

The blonde boy scratched the back of his head in irritation, not knowing what exactly to say and settled on “Kinda hard not to…”

“Uh, you still haven’t changed!” Takamaki shook her head expectantly.

“So how much did you hear…?”

“I heard something about Shiho. What’s going on with her?”

Takamaki became meek all of the sudden, lowering her voice as she spoke: “It’s nothing at all.”

“Bullshit!” Ryuji put his foot down at that “It’s got something to do with Kamoshida doesn’t it!?”

“I said it’s nothing!” the blonde girl rubbed her eyes before dashing off into the underground walkway.

“Takamaki!? Wait!”

Ryuji didn’t even think and sprinted after her immediately. Or at least he would’ve if his left leg agreed with him, he only made it ten steps before the pain nearly had him keel over. Though by the, he’d already lost sight of the platinum blonde girl.

‘Stupid effin’ leg, just this time… Ann needs it’

Ryuji stood up again and searched the underground for a few minutes at a fast pace. Not enough to be considered a run but enough to find Ann either way.

“Stop following me… Just leave me alone!”

“I can’t!” the words slipped out of his mouth unintentionally. Ryuji would’ve been embarrassed if he wasn’t so worried.

“Why…? Why are you worrying about me?”

Now Ryuji was embarrassed. He looked away as pink tinged his cheeks for a moment “…I want to talk, that’s it.”

“What the heck…? Are you really Sakamoto…?”

Ryuji took the two to a small diner and took a table, away from any potentially prying eyes. He took the time to send Ren an apologetic text on the way.

“I don’t have anything to talk about with you.” He stayed quiet, letting her continue her train of thought “It was just an argument…”

“Could see that. Was it Kamoshida?”

“You’ve heard the rumours haven’t you?”

“Which ones?”

“About me and Kamoshida-sensei… about how everyone thinks we're getting it on.”

“I already know that’s bullshit. No way you’d be into scum like him.”

“T-thanks… That was him on the other line.” Takamaki knew that the blonde boy was no fan of Kamoshida but she was still unsure how he’d take the rumour of her and the coach. Her shoulders relaxed at the knowledge that Sakamoto did not buy into the rumours.

“I avoided giving him my number… for the longest time…” her voice shook at the mere memory of the recent call “He told me to go to his place after this…”

“That sick bastard!” Sakamoto slammed his fists on the table and stood up in protest.

“Don’t you dare go, you hear me!” his eyes burnt with such fury though she was unsure what exactly he was protesting against.

“…if I turn him down, he said he’d take Shiho off as a regular on the team…” her eyes were downtrodden in contrast to the blonde boy’s.

“I’ve been telling myself this is all for her sake…”

The boy opposite her was stunned to silence and couldn’t even come up with any words on reflex. He just took his seat once more, listening intently to the girl his opposite speaking her mind.

“I can’t take it anymore…” she speaks to the table, unable to speak directly to Sakamoto’s eyes “I’ve had enough of this… I hate him!”

“Same here…” the blonde boy muttered under his breath. Careful as to not interrupt Takamaki at the moment.

“But still… Shiho’s my best friend.” tears well up and flow free from Takamaki “She’s all I have left at that sorry excuse of a school!”

Sakomoto felt completely useless. Words could not console her right now. What she needed was for Kamoshida to get what was coming to him all this time. His hands gripped his knees hard.  The pain reminded him to not be rash, especially now.

“Tell me… Ryuji-kun, what should I do…?” she wiped the tears “What… am I saying…?”

“We’ll do something about that perverted bastard…” the conviction in his voice had a similar intensity to the fury in his eyes earlier.

“Huh…?” she believed she misheard but gave a mirthless laugh regardless “…Sakamoto. I can’t tell if you’ve changed or stayed the same for this long.”

“We’re back to that? After you just called me ‘Ryuji-kun’ just then too.”

“S-shut up!” she gave a lame protest “But sure, same goes for you… no more of this Takamaki stuff.”

Ryuji just gave a grin in response that she couldn’t help but mimic. The joy was short-lived as the gravity of the situation pulled down on her again.

“I just wish he’d change his mind… Like, forget about me… and everything.”

“We’ll do one better.”

“Ryuji? I wasn’t asking for a serious response.” Ann was expecting that to be a joke but both the tone in Ryuji’s voice said otherwise.

“But, I do feel a bit better now.” Ann collected herself and stood up “…I’m gonna head home.”

“Don’t tell anyone what I told you, Ok?” she whispers before going through the door.

“…sorry Ann”

Ryuji pulled out his phone.


[Ryuji Sakamoto]

Ryuji We’re taking Kamoshido down tomorrow.

Hello to you too Ren

What happened with Ann? Ren

Ryuji   That bastard Kamoshida happened.

Ryuji   Blackmailed Ann with her best friend too.

Ryuji   Those rumours sounded bullshit from the start, but damn, hearing the whole story from her...

Ryuji   I’m an idiot.

We’ll deal with Kamoshida starting tomorrow Ren

Ryuji   Starting? We’re finishing it too!

Ryuji   Ann doesn’t deserve any more of this shit.

You may be underestimating how big a palace can be. Ren

And Ann isn’t the only one who suffered. Ren

Don’t forget yourself too, kay? Ren

Ryuji   Yeah, you’re right

Ryuji   There’s Mishima, Suzui, and the whole volleyball team too.

Suzui? Ren

Ryuji   Shiho Suzui, Ann’s friend Kamoshida’s blackmailing her with.

Ryuji   Holding her starting position on the team hostage for…

Ryuji   God, I don’t even want to type this shit!

Ryuji   Just thinking about it is making me sick.

Ryuji   Thanks for listening Renren, see ya tomorrow.

[Ryuji Sakamoto]

‘Shiho Suzui…’

‘Why do I feel like I’m missing something important…’

He couldn’t dwell on that for long however as it was getting late into the night and Morgana was meowing for him to go to sleep. He’d just explained to Sojiro how he’d even picked up the cat from. The old man was as soft as he remembered though, even brought food for Morgana even after saying the cat was all Ren’s responsibility.

Morgana lamented on his true nature given his forgotten past. Still, none of that mattered to Ren because as far as he was concerned that cat was his best friend.

‘Just like old times’


I am thou, thou art I
Thou hast acquired a new vow,

It shall become the wings of rebellion
that breaketh thy chains of captivity,

With the birth of the Magician Persona,
I have obtained the winds of blessing that
shall lead to freedom and new power…


Friday, 15th of April 2016
2-D Classroom, Shujin Academy
Morning

‘Somethings… wrong.’ the bespectacled black-haired boy could not help but fidget in his seat in the 2-D classroom.

‘Something… bad is going to happen…’ there was a tragedy that occurred on this date. Yet, he could not recall what it was, or at this rate… what it would be.

‘That girl from yesterday… who was she?’

Ren felt that girl must’ve had something to do with whatever this consuming dread he felt.

‘Suzui!?’

That name… was the one Ryuji texted to him last night. Ann’s friend and the push she had to become a phantom thief was because of what had happened on the previous 15th of April. Suzui would do something irreparable to everyone for good and ill…

‘Oh no…’

The shock of his slow realization set in, he had too little time left. He got on his feet.

“Amamiya-san, sit down!” he ignored the teacher, Ushimaru-sensei, and sprinted out of the room and headed straight for the roof.

“Hey, what are you doing?” Morgana, hidden underneath his desk meowed after him but no avail.

“That’s the criminal right?”

“Going out to sharpen that knife probably…”

“Why would he have to sharpen a rusty knife?”

The 2-D gossip gang already had a spin on what was going on. Fortunately for them, there’d be something even more rumour worth in a couple of minutes.


Ren kicked down the door to the roof and saw the familiar girl brown-haired girl a ponytail from yesterday. She was already on the other side of the fence the roof had to prevent this exact kind of situation.

“Suzui!” Ren screamed to grab her attention.

“…the transfer student from yesterday?” Suzui’s voice betrayed no emotion. She sounded empty as not a single emotion could be picked from her voice, not even fear.

Ren sprinted as quickly as possible towards her “Don’t do it…! please don’t jump!”

“I’m sorry.” she jumped.

He was too late.

He came back to the past to prevent a tragedy and couldn’t stop one that started it all for his friends.

He was powerless once more.

His mind flashed back to the Cruiser of Pride where his team had met the end.

‘No… not again.’

‘Everybody’s got to die someday… this looks pretty pointless though.’

At that moment Ren lost control of his body.


“Hey… What’s that…!?” A student in 2-D stood up and stared at the roof.

“Enough! This is a classroom! We already had Amamiya-san for today!”

“Wait… she’s going to jump…!” Another student grabbed the whole class’s attention this time.

“Suzui…?” Mishima identified the girl he’d sent Kamoshida’s way multiple times.

“Shiho…?” and so did Ann.

“Hey! Stay in your seats! Do not step foot outside of this room!” Ushimaru orders were left ignored as all the students flooded outside.

“What’s going on, I need to find Ren or Ryuji…” in the confusion, Morgana slipped out of the classroom unnoticed.


Control.

He had control back.

The first thing Ren noticed was the wind running across his mask, no, it was running past his whole body. He was… in free fall and the Metaverse to boot? He wanted to remember how he got into this predicament in the first place but something else caught his eye.

Suzui was below him.

She too was falling.

A smirk grew on his face.

He could do something about it now.

“Arsene!” channelling his animosity against Kamoshida, he called upon his Persona and silently ordered him to catch the girl.

Unfortunately for him, that meant he had to take the fall without any assistance. The Metaverse enhanced a persona user’s physical abilities but a fall is still a fall. His crash towards the ground rang loud on impact.

‘Would not recommend that…’

Arsene slowly descended behind him carrying bridal style before laying her gently on the stone floor. He dissipated after Suzui laid on the ground

“Suzui-san! Are you okay?” Ren examined her whole body visually and spotted no bruises that would’ve been the result of a fall. She still had plenty of wounds from volleyball training.

Suzui got a good look at her saviour and realized it was the same boy from yesterday “Huh? You again… where am I?”

“Thank god you’re okay…”

“What happened… um…?” she was searching for something as she turned her face away.

Then it made sense and he introduced himself “Ren Amamiya.” And he subconsciously flashed a smile before stopping realizing how inappropriate it was given the situation.

“Amamiya-kun where are we?”

Ren explains as succinctly as possible “Somewhere dangerous, we need to leave…”

“Why… you should just leave me here then…”

“…” The black-haired boy said nothing as he attempted to lift Suzui from the ground.

“I w-wanted to die… p-please leave me b-be.” she stuttered in between sobbing. She wanted this indescribable feeling to stop.

“No, you didn’t.” Ren stared her down.

That caught her off-guard “Huh?”

“You wanted Kamoshida to stop…” Ren’s voice was gentle and lacking any judgment.

“We can do that without you dying.” hope welled in Suzui’s eyes. She wasn’t sure why but the words he’d spoken inspired hope regardless.

“Oh, can you now?” as they say speak of the devil and they will appear.

Shadow Kamoshida had found them, and it must’ve been easy given the commotion he had caused earlier. Ren didn’t have a Navigator with him, but he could tell the Palace’s alert level was nearing maximum just from their single stunt.

Ren stepped forward, placing himself in-between Suzui and Kamoshida.

“Ah, Suzui?” Kamoshida eye her top to bottom “I had fun yesterday… What about you?”

“Hahaha, I’m just kidding!” a lecherous laugh escaped before his face turned cold “It was actually quite a disappointing lay.”

“When are you gonna get Takamaki on for me?”

That lit a fire underneath Suzui “You leave Ann out of this!”

“If you looked more like this.” he snapped his fingers “I wouldn’t have to after her.”

Kamoshida’s cognitive version of Suzui came into view and draped her arms around him and said, well moaned out: “Lord Kamoshida...”

The cognitive image he had conjured had Suzui dressed in a fluffy white bunny bikini with tail and ears included.

“Guards, eliminate the boy.” King Kamoshida summoned six guards to apprehend and punish the two.

“Spare the girl, she still has… uses for me.” the perverted coach licked his lips in anticipation.

“W-we will find a way out of this, Suzui.” Ren nearly faltered at the beginning, the pain from taking the fall still here.

“No time like the present… Arsene!” his Persona heeded his call once again.

The three knights responded in kind, turning into their shadow form. A group of three mounted knights known as Eligors faced off against Ren.

“Ravage them!” the cocky smirk he’d donned so many times in the future-past graced his lips again.

‘Impossible odds tend to bring out the best in us all.’

The shadows coordinated assault against Ren’s lonesome was brutality at its clearest. Ren still had not used his power as the wild card yet either, so he was left with using Arsene for the whole battle.

Suzui could no longer avert her eyes “Stop! Please stop!”

“You just need me, right?” She prostrated herself in front of Kamoshida who had been watching Ren get pummelled.

“Why would I, you can’t stop me.” the coach’s face contorts into a savage grin, one overflowing with malice “You will never be able to stop me, Suzui.”

“That guy has a criminal record… he’ll never amount to something.” to add injury to insult, an Eligor got through his defenses and nearly skewered the boy.

“You on the other hand… you are a woman and they can always amount to something.”

“As long as they listen to people like me.” Kamoshida’s smug lecherous grin had broken Suzui. It had broken what was left of herself that would answer to his beck and call. It had broken the chains around her that had obscured every other path but self-suffering.

“SHUT UP!” power emanated from her, knocking down the Eligors that had swarmed Ren.

‘No way… is she going to awaken too?’

“He was right, I didn’t want to die…” Suzui stopped prostrating herself and walked forward.

“I didn’t want to leave Ann behind…” another step.

“I didn’t want to stop playing volleyball…” and another.

“I want to do so much more with this life!” and more.

“But at this moment, the only thing I want…” she is beside Ren at this moment.

“…is you GONE!” now she stood before him.

“Your fleeing has finally led you to me?”

“You seek an answer, do you? You already know what to do.”

“Death comes as it always has, but it will not be this day for you.”

“This contract shall be steeled in battle.”

“I am thou, thou art I…”

“You have found your strength…”

“Tighten your grip and never let go of it again!”

A porcelain mask that concealed the right side of her face appeared on her face and her instincts told her to take it off, no matter the cost. Blood spattered across her face as the mask was dislodged and azure flames consumed her that died down as quickly as it appeared.

Suzui’s metaverse outfit consisted of faded white buttoned shirt and trousers with a brown short jacket, knee-high black boots, a heavy blue-green cloak with a wing motif on the back, and a pair of gloves with the same tint as the cloak. Her mask is a white porcelain half mask with a half a Dara Celtic Knot painted on.

“Boudicca! Let’s raise hell!”

Suzui’s persona, Boudicca, appeared to be a woman with mottled green skin covered in a glossy blue carapace. Her hair appeared as elongated stalks, segmented along the lines of insect legs. The most distinctive feature she bore was her pair of skeletal wings that sprouted from her back that consisted of elongated spikes.

Suzui now held a weapon in her hands—

‘Wait, how exactly do we even get our weapons when we awaken…?’ a question for another time perhaps.

A single-edge blade as large as or potentially larger than Suzui herself was held easily in her hands. The weapon would’ve been classified a broadsword if its dimensions weren’t so absurd. It sported a length of 200 cm and a width of 30 cm from a simple eye-test. The blade itself was a dull grey whilst its hilt was wrapped with a bright-red fabric.

‘What. The. Fuck…’ Ren could only shake his head, the absurdity of her weapon brought memories back of Noir and her grenade launcher.

‘We’re supposed to be Phantom Thieves, right…?’ he shook his head, it barely felt like they were at times.

Suzui easily cleaved through one of the three Eligors currently present.

The tide of the battle seemingly began to turn as Ren and Arsene could finally start going on the offensive instead of permanently defending and going their stock of Takemi’s med—

“Hahaha, you think I would fall prey to the same trickery that punk Sakamoto pulled?”

Suddenly three more Eligor’s appeared and the battle seemed to just as bleak as it started.

“Robin Hood!” or so it seemed.

A rain of arrows descended and devastated all the Eligor at once.

“So that disappearing trick was your work, Joker.” a man with a red bird mask and dressed in white formal wear approach with a clap “Our leader never ceases to surprise me.”

“Crow?” Ren muttered. His mind was trying to process everything that was happening.

How was Akechi here?

Why was Akechi here?

How did he already know the code names?

‘In fact, even Ryuji and Morgana hadn’t come up with codenames yet.’

“-pai told us we should be leaving, Amamiya-san.” he shook his head as he had only registered Suzui was referring to him now.

“Huh… yeah, alright…” he dumbly followed, not registering anything anymore before hearing someone crashing into the stone floor. It looked like Suzui had overexerted herself before she even awakened, and the fatigue had finally caught up with her.”

“Joker, we should carry Suzui-san out of here.” Ren nodded and took Suzui's right flank as Akechi took care of her left.

“I suppose this means the Phantom Thieves are back in business?” Akechi has a seemingly genuine smile on his face as he walked side-by-side with him.


The two had exited Kamoshida’s palace and brought Suzui to the nurse’s office to let her recuperate.

Ren was too busy carrying Shiho to register it before but now that he fully inspected him...

Akechi was wearing the Shujin Academy uniform with the 3rd year pin visible.


I am thou, thou art I
Thou hast acquired a new vow,

It shall become the wings of rebellion
that breaketh thy chains of captivity,

With the birth of the Justice Persona,
I have obtained the winds of blessing that
shall lead to freedom and new power…


Boudicca

Arcana: Strength

Level:10

Resist: Curse

Weak: Wind, Bless

Skills: Cleave, Ramapge, Eiha, Mudo

Chapter Text

Friday, 15th of April 2016
Shujin Academy, Aoyama Itchome
Afternoon

The duo of Amamiya and Akechi made their way to a secluded area in an alleyway outside of Shujin Academy. The two didn’t have the luxury of choice especially when Ren wanted answers as soon as possible.

“Not the place I’d choose to have my first conversation with you. This time around, I mean.”

‘What should I ask him?’

‘How are you doing?’

‘Glad to see you’re okay?’

‘How’d you know I was in the Palace?’

“Let’s cut to the chase. How do you know about our codenames?”

“How could I forget it?” Akechi let out a bemused chuckle in between “I believe it is the same way you do… I don’t understand it but we’re Phantom Thieves, are we not?”

“You still consider yourself one…? After what you did…?”

Akechi donned a frown as his face curled in confusion “Why wouldn’t I?”

“Because you’re a traitor!” Ren couldn’t hold it in anymore, this was the person who had attempted to kill him… but at the same time.

‘I didn’t want him to die on that ship either…’ Ren searches his feeling, but he cannot know if he feels relieved or terrified that Akechi had survived and somehow returned with him.

The brown-haired boy was perplexed as he mouthed out “…a traitor?”

“Am I misremembering? No… am I missing something?” he ponders and enters a thinking pose. Pressing his thumb underneath his chin to concentrate whilst leaning against the wall.

Pain suddenly shot through Akechi’s, not just his body but his entire being surged in pain “Ugh…”

Concern darted up Ren’s eyes “Akechi?”

“Aaaaagh!!!” his knees buckled and gave in which left boy on the ground clutching his head.

“Akechi!? what’s going on!?” Ren knelt to level with Akechi. The episode he was experiencing was terrifying to behold as well and whoever nearby could easily get the wrong idea.

Akechi let go of his head and looked at the world as if it has shifted “I-I see… that’s who I was…”

“What are you talking about?” Ren stood up and offered Akechi a hand.

“I remember… more…” the brown-haired boy’s frown was evident though he still accepted his hand.

“My memory of the future-past… is faded? Obscured?” Akechi searched for a word that could amicably describe what he just saw, no… what he experienced. Memories of him leading the Phantom Thieves to a trap in the Casino of Envy. The Shujin cultural festival where he had coerced the thieves to disband under threat of blackmail.

“I… thought that my memories of that time were clear before… but this meeting with you now reminded me of who I a—was.” Akechi bit his tongue. For the first time in over two years, he had doubted who he truly was.

“I joined the Phantom Thieves to… catch you all, right?”

Ren quietly nodded in return. He was beginning to paint a picture of who this ‘Akechi’ was. The bespectacled boy could surmise that this version of Akechi lacked certain memories that implicated him.

‘Perhaps it has something to do as to why he used Robin Hood back then instead of Loki?’ something linked to his black mask? Akechi did, oddly enough, have two supposed ideas of what rebellion looks like. Indicated by his two separate outfits in the Metaverse.

There was too little information to go on for Ren. ‘And the possibility that he is still manipulating me right this moment remains…’

“But why am I so… fond of you all?” Akechi muttered, seemingly unable to come to terms with what he was supposedly was like.

“Skull, Mona, Panther, Fox, Queen, Oracle…” melancholy danced in his voice.

“Ha—Noir!” the detective ‘was he still a detective?’ caught his tongue.

A long silence followed as Akechi felt attracted to the ground instead of anywhere else for the time being.

He finally turned his face to Ren “…may I ask a favour of you, Joker?”

“Hm?”

The quiver in the older boy’s voice was impossible to mask “Please keep this a secret, at least until I learn the whole truth about myself.”

“I don’t know…”

“As I am right now… I’d sooner hurt myself than the Phantom Thieves!” Akechi’s declaration held a surprising amount of conviction. If he hadn’t betrayed them in the past, it would’ve been enough to convince Ren. A bothersome thought floated in his head due to Akechi’s declaration.

‘Why does he sound… so intimate with them…?’

Keeping his eye contact locked between the two “I… alright. Akechi—”

“Goro.” the brown-haired boy cut him off immediately.

“Wha’?”

“They all already call me Goro. You should too…” a smile graced his lips for the first time since he clutched himself on the ground.

‘They?’ Ren could only guess what that meant ‘But why am I getting a chill down my spine…?’

“Alright… Goro.”

“Thanks, Ren.”


[Joker]

RANK UP! Justice Confidant has reached Rank 2.


Earlier with Ann…

She knew what she saw. That was Shiho who had jumped off the roof…

What had happened? Ann already started running to the courtyard as soon as she saw Shiho leap off the edge. Though she was only met with a confused crowd of students and a distinct lack of her best friend when she arrived. She remembers how the students were eagerly looking for any sign that they didn’t just have some sort of collective hallucination.

“What was that just now?”

“You saw someone jump too, right?”

“Did you recognize who it was?”

“Nah, couldn’t tell… think it was a girl though.”

‘At least it seemed like they couldn’t tell that it was Shiho…’ Ann released a sigh of relief. Ann had enough experience with Shujin’s nasty rumours. Shiho didn’t need the Shujin rumour mill going after her too.

Ann caught Ryuji at the corner of her vision as he was leaving the campus. He looked pretty agitated and he seemed to be arguing with his… bag?

‘Nothing wrong with eavesdropping on him, just payback for yesterday!’ and with that internal justification, Ann followed him quietly.

“Stop complainin’! Sheesh, it's just my bag. How much worse could it be?”

“Wait, lemme get this straight… Renren just ran out of class!?”

‘Renren?’ she could barely contain a chortle at the cute nickname the supposed criminal transfer student had ‘Is that supposed to be Amamiya-san? How do those two know each other?’

“For real!?”

Ann glanced behind her to survey where that meowing just came from. Though she could’ve sworn it was coming from the blond boy , but that was impossible…

“Where would we even start?” Ryuji was getting pretty animated for someone who appeared to be talking to himself.

“I already tried that, he ain’t responding! Tried calling too but he’s not picking up!” something dawned on Ryuji, or so Ann thought by the look on his face.

“Wait… you think he had something to do with that disappearing act earlier?”

‘What!?’ that transfer student might be involved with Shiho on the roof?

Ryuji was beginning to act particularly fidgety “Should we go if it's just the two of us though?”

“You’re right, it’d be even more dangerous if he was just stuck in there alone!” Ryuji pulled out his phone and began tinkering with a… navigation app?

“Beginning Navigation.”

The world started shifting into an odd amalgamation centred around the school and the visual distortions faded away to reveal a castle in its place. The alleyway she was peering through to stalk—follow Sakamoto was still intact, however. Ann’s head did not feel the same as that alleyway. Too disorientated to focus she followed the sound of a sudden voice.

“Alright time to find Renren!”

“What is this!?” she spotted a boy dressed in mostly in black with a distinctive red ascot and skull-looking mask. Beside him stood a tiny… cat-plush doll?

“A-Ann?” the skull masked boy practically sputtered. ‘Was she following us?’

Ann missed no beat “That voice… Ryuji!?” and was able to identify

“Wh-Wh-Why are you even here!?” sputtering best described Ryuji’s words as they left his mouth.

“How should I know!?” And looked back and forth and no sign of the school was present… but behind her was seemingly normal.

“What’s going on? Hey, where are we…!? Isn’t this the school!?”

“I see. Perhaps she was dragged in because of that app thing.” Morgana, finally out of his infatuation induced stupor, spoke up.

The small not-cat pondered out loud “If multiple people can enter with the person who uses it, it stands to reason it’ll pull anyone who stands nearby.”

“For real…?” Ryuji was just not having a good day. First Ren disappearing and now Ann following him into the Palace.

“Wait… is THIS—“ Ann stretched her arms wide as if to bring attention to the distorted world “related to Shiho!?”

“Shiho!?” the blonde boy asked incredulously before refocusing on what's important, Ann’s safety “Anyways, you gotta leave!”

“No!” Ann stood defiantly.

Morgana shook his head and whispered, “The shadows are going to find us if you make a scene.”

Ann, despite noticing him speak already “No way! It talked!? Oh my god, it’s a monster cat…!” finally commented on the monster cat.

“Monster…?” Morgana looked positively heartbroken by the slight.

“You better explain what’s going on! I won’t leave until you do!” Ann stomps her foot on the ground as she aggressively delivers an ultimatum. Unfortunately for her, the shakiness of her voice gave away what she really felt.

Ryuji sighed in defeat “Looks like we gotta force her.” as he really didn’t want to resort to this “But… how’re we supposed to do that?”

“Just take her back to where we came in. That’s how it worked last time, right?” Morgana reminded him of the basic mechanics of the metaverse.

“O-Oh, yeah.”

“What’re you—” Ryuji suddenly accosted Ann and began dragging her to where they entered from “We’ll explain after everything over!”

“Hey! And just where do you think you are touching!?” Ann protested indignantly, though to no avail.

“Whoa, sorry, I didn’t mean—” Ryuji was really having a bad day… A few more steps and Ann disappeared as if ejected from the Palace entirely.

“I’ll be more careful when we use that app…” the blonde boy apologized quietly.

“Check your surroundings before using the tools!” Morgana irritably continued “Why was I, the one who was watching, know more about it than you two!?”

“Sh-Shuddup!”  Ryuji begins lamenting the severity of the situation “Geez, Ann found out right when Ren isn’t here to help explain the plan… and Ren’s probably lost somewhere inside too…”

“That girl’s name is Ann, right?” Morgana’s animated eyes became even more comical “Lady Ann…”

Ryuji growls as he warns the not-cat “You better not be thinkin’ what I think you’re thinkin’ Morgana…”

“What!? I’m not saying anything—” a patrol of shadows rolled around the entrance to check the earlier commotion.

“The shadows have noticed us. You better brace yourself, got it? We don’t have him here with us.” Ryuji nodded.

“I didn’t want to make our codenames when he isn’t here—”

“Codenames?” Ryuji interrupted.

“A phantom thief should never use their real name! I’m not down for that!” Morgana seemed quite well informed about phantom thieves for an amnesiac “And there’s no telling what kind of effect yelling our real names will have on the Palace…”

“It’s just a precaution.” the not-cat continues and then analyzed Ryuji’s appearance “Hm… Let’s see… You’ll be ‘Thug’!”

“Don’t pick a fight now! I’ll choose it myself.”

Ryuji enters a thinking stance, placing his knuckles on his chin “When it comes to me, it’s gotta be this mask.”

“Honestly, I actually kinda like it. What if we named me after this?” he tapped his mask in the process.

“Fine... why not ‘Skull’ then?” Morgana lamely suggested…

“Ooh! That sounds awesome! I’m Skull!” the recently codified Skull jumped excitedly at the name.

“What about your’s Morgana?”

“…How ‘bout ‘Mona’?” Ryuji gave a cheeky grin which Morgana partially returned.

“I like it.”


The black and brown-haired duo were walking back to the nurse’s office in the case that Suzui would wake up. She’d need someone to explain what exactly happened with her inside Kamoshida’s Palace.

As they opened the door to the office, Suzui was already awake and was sitting upright on the bed.

“Ah, Akechi-senpai!” her eyes lit up at the sight of the third year.

“Oh, you’re still popular around here? Even now?” Ren teased the older boy whilst concealing it with a whisper. Akechi faked a cough to bring attention to the bespectacled boy for Suzui.

“And Amamiya-kun?” she took notice of both the boys that came to visit her now.

“How are you feeling, Suzui-san?” Ren approached closer to her bedside.

“Um… alright, if a bit tired.” She bit her lip, showing how nervewracking this was for her.

“No need to be so apprehensive. You can ask us what’s on your mind.” It was Akechi’s turn to console her, not that the two boys planned any of this out.

“B-before that…” Suzui stuttered out.

“I’d like to thank Amamiya-kun for stopping me from jumping…” she bowed her head before coming to a realization.

“…No, I did jump…” it seems like the events of today had finally caught up to her “And there was that castle… with the robed Kamoshida… and another me dressed in…” she muttered more incomprehensible things to herself before turning her attention to the two boys again.

“You two know what’s going on don’t you…” Ren and Goro looked into each other’s eyes and came to an understanding and simultaneously nodded to Suzui.

“What do you remember?” the bespectacled boy began his line of questioning, preparing to fill in any blanks for Suzui.

“Ren, are you sure we should be doing this here? The nurse could come in at any moment” Goro warned.

“…true.”

“We’ll have to explain it later, if that’s alright with you, Suzui-san?”

“U-Uhm, okay…”

“It’d be a good idea for us to share our numbers and chat ID so we can discuss this later.” Akechi recommended to the group.

All three pulled out their phones… only for Ren to notice what he’d missed.


4 MISSED CALLS

[Ryuji Sakamoto]

Ryuji   Hey man, you okay? Morgana said you just ran off in the middle of class.

Ryuji   Dude, we’re kinda getting worried here.

Ryuji   You had something to do with that disappearing jump on the roof right?

Ryuji   Me and Morgana are going into the Metaverse to look for you, hang tight.

[Ryuji Sakamoto]


‘Oh no…’ A myriad of thoughts started running through his mind but the prevailing one was ‘Is this going to unfold like last time with Ann getting roped into things again…’

“Suzui-san, can you try giving An—Takamaki-san a call?” Ren bit his tongue at the mistake. Ann had not spoken to him yet in this turn of events.

“Why?” Suzui narrowed her eyes suspiciously at the black-haired boy.

“Please… just… check up on her.” Ren pleaded to which Suzui relented, it seemed like a harmless enough gesture.

“Alright.” her phone began ringing as she called Ann… but there wasn’t an answer. Nor was there any indication that she ever received the call in the first place, no reply to dissuade her worries.

“Amamiya-san, what’s going on?” her face wore anger and apprehension at the same time, confused as to who to direct her ire at this very moment.

“I see…” Goro immediately interjected before Ren could even reply.

“You believe Ann to be in the Metaverse, correct?” the brown-haired boy said it straight out.

“Akechi-senpai?”

“Goro!?” Ren was totally exasperated. ‘Did he have to say that out loud?’

“The metaverse? What do you…? Do you mean that place with the castle and odd Kamoshida?” Suzui quickly put the pieces together.

“Ann is inside there?” and rapidly surmised what she wanted to do. “You—We have to help!”

Ren sighed, it was going to happen again “Are you even capable of standing?”

“Yep!” Suzui bolted out of bed, seemingly no worse for wear from her earlier excursion to the metaverse.

“This is dangerous—”

“No, let her come.” Ren interrupted the brown-haired third year.

“Ren?” Akechi was surprised, he was sure Ren valued the Phantom Thieves’ safety above all else.

“If last time was any indication. Telling someone not to come just makes them come by themselves.” the bespectacled boy recalled the time Ann had walked into him, Ryuji and Morgana as they were coming up with codenames.

“…yeah, that would be even more dangerous.” Akechi immediately understood his reasoning and agreeably nodded.

Ren did have one question left for Suzui though “Just tell me, why do you want to come?”

Suzui didn’t need to think about why; her words came from her heart instead of her head. “Ann has always been helping me…”

“She has to put up with those cruel rumours just because of how she looks.” her hands clenched tightly as she began, frustration bubbling on the surface. “And now she has to put with ones about her and Kamoshida because of me.”

“I finally have a chance to be her helping hand.” the girl finally relaxed her hands at the thought of the opportunity before her.

“So Amamiya-san… Akechi-senpai… please take me with you.” she bowed her head with overwhelming sincerity.

“Alright but call me Ren.”

“And me Goro.”

“Then you two can call me Shiho.” she beamed in excitement at the approval of the two boys.

“We will be waiting at the school gates, Shiho-chan”


I am thou, thou art I
Thou hast acquired a new vow,

It shall become the wings of rebellion
that breaketh thy chains of captivity,

With the birth of the Strength Persona,
I have obtained the winds of blessing that
shall lead to freedom and new power…


The two boys stepped out of the nurse’s office only for Goro to stop abruptly a few steps later.

“Ren… what just happened?”

“Hm?” Ren turned around to see a bewildered Goro.

“That voice… and something about vows?” the brown-haired boy tried and failed to find something more concrete to describe the experience.

Ren’s eyes widened in surprise “…wait… you get those too?”

Goro shook his head “I don’t know… I don’t have any memories about these…”

“Confidants.” the black-haired boy filled in.

“Confidants? No.... I have no memories of those at all.” Goro started walking once more and Ren joined his side shortly after muttering to himself.

“I see…”


“Goro-senpai! Ren!” Shiho had been admitted out of the nurse’s office and sprinted towards them at the school gate.

“Alright, we need to find a more secluded place…”

“Secluded?” she tensed and asked warily…

“Yeah, so we don’t have more people like Ann falling in the Metaverse accidentally.”

Realizing there wasn’t anything untoward these two boys were planning, she latched onto a question “You’ve mentioned that before… but what is the Metaverse.”

Goro was prepared to answer “Well—”

“We are in a hurry to rescue someone, so it would be in our interest to hold that for now.” Ren cut him off before he could even start.

“Right!” Shiho nodded and clapped her face in a mock gesture to wake herself up some more.

“Well, we can at least show you how we get there. Shiho, bring out your phone and click on an app that looks like an eye a red and black palette.”

“I don’t have anything like—” Shino complained but took out her phone anyways “What’s this?” as she saw the exact item that Ren had just described.

“It’s the MetaNav, we input a Name, Place, and Distortion which reveals a different world which we call a Palace.” Ren began the exposition but hurried through it as best he could “In this case, it would be, Suguru Kamoshida, Shujin Academy, and Castle”

“Match Found. Beginning Navigation.”

The world bent around them and what was once the school visual distorted itself to reveal its form in the Metaverse, the Castle of Lust.

Shiho was mildly disoriented but quickly regained her bearing “Wh-where are—this is where we were before?”

“But how? What happened to the school!?” she noted towards the familiar castle.

“Ah! What am I wearing?” before she could raise more questions, the black-haired boy interjected.

“Apologies but we do have to hurry to save Ann after all… so you’ll be getting a crash course instead.” Shiho audibly gulped at the dangerous glint in the eyes of Ren.

“No need to scare her like that Joker.” Goro chided the leader of the Phantom Thieves.

“Oh yeah, codenames!” Ren excitement was uncontained. Odd for someone just wants to get this done as fast as possible.

Goro sighed at this new side of their leader “Is now really the time?”

“There isn’t a better time.” Ren promptly ignored Goro and turned to the newest, technically-not-yet, member.

“Alright, what do you want your codename to be?” Ren offered the question.

“Codename?” she titled her head in confusion.

“Well, I’m Joker… he’s Crow.” Ren pointed towards himself before putting his hand on Goro’s shoulder.

“We don’t use our real names in the Metaverse.”

“I can’t come up with one on the spot like this!” Shiho lamented at the suddenness which was only amplified by the excitement etched on Ren—Joker’s face.

“What about ‘Wings’? Your cloak has that as its motif on the back?” Ren started by throwing the first idea.

“No. vetoed. I’m not getting a name associated with food.” Shiho authoritatively denied.

“Hmm… What about ‘Cloud’? Soaring through the sky to reach for the clouds if you will.” Goro shot his idea as well.

Shiho pondered it for a moment, letting the name float in her head “Cloud… I like it, I’m Cloud.”

“Are you sure?” Ren eyed her huge sword while asking.

“Yeah, is something wrong with it?” Shiho innocently inquired.

“No, it's just… nevermind…” Ren surrendered. It would be interesting to hear what Futaba would have to say about her when they meet.

“Well let's get started then…” Goro spoke up, focus entirely placed on the mission.

“Crow, can you act as a temporary Navigator for the time being?”

“Understood.” Goro focused on the Palace’s layout and structure “Alright… my range and ability aren’t as expansive as Oracle’s nor am I as experienced as Mona, but I can read at least three non-shadow entities close-by.”

“Can you identify who they are?”

“I am familiar with Skull and Mona’s signature and they’re by each other's side… The one further in the castle does not have a Persona!” The apprehension became clear in Goro's voice at the end.

“That must be Ann…” Ren concluded.

“Alright, let's make this quick!”

It had been a long time since Ren had been in the Castle of Lust and while he could remember the disgusting extent of the decadence it held within… he could not remember every corner and door it contained. Relying on Goro for navigation was essential for the time being, though Ren did wish he could test a theory that he’d had since their conversation with Shiho.

“Joker, the fastest way through this room would be to eliminate this guard.” Goro alerted him towards the halfway between them and Ryuji and Morgana.

“Perfect.” Time to put it to the test. “Show me your true form!”

The guard’s mask came off easily to reveal two Pixies hidden underneath.

“Crow, use guns to down them! Then follow my lead!”

Goro nodded unquestioningly “Understood!”

With two shots from Goro, both Pixies were downed with ease and the thieves of them surrounded the two of them to begin a hold-up.

“Now, negotiate with it!”

Goro turned to Ren to show his scepticism “What? Don’t we just kill these things?”

“Just do it, I need to see if I’m right about something!” Ren practically barked out the order.

“Ok.” Goro thought about his words carefully “I’ll let you go if you give me something valuable in return.”

“Really? But this happened so suddenly… I actually don’t have anything on me…” the excitement in the Pixie’s voice died down immediately. “I-I usually do though, you know!?”

“Can we move on now?” Goro asked Ren once more, his finger growing itchier by the moment.

“Wait!” the Pixie shouted.

Ren silently nodded before allowing the Pixie to speak “Continue…”

“Can’t we work something out? Don’t kill me, please! Won’t you let me go?” the small and lithe creature begged as best it could.

“You chose the wrong enemy” Goro shook his head, growing even annoyed with this exchange.

“Wow… You’re really confident!” the Pixie grew a surprising smile “But I’m the same way. In any other situation, we’d get along really well.”

“Whoa, I feel different! Something’s happening!”

The pixie suddenly surged with an unknown, unseen power that linked it with Goro. The thief in the link stayed silent throughout as he believed this all to still be a part of Ren’s plan.

“What’s going on? Joker?” Shiho tugged on Ren’s coat as apprehension sat in her eyes.

“…Oh yeah, I remember now! I don’t belong to just King Kamoshida… I’m an existence that drifts about in the sea of humanity’s souls…”

“I’m Pixie! From now on, I’ll live on inside your heart!” The Pixie was quickly absorbed into Goro’s mask.

“Joker… what was that just now…?” Shiho reiterated her previous question.

‘I was right… I do wonder why you never displayed this ability last time though…”

“He’s a wild card, just like me.”

“They are those who can wield multiple personas.” Ren ended the explanation there and began moving forward once more. Shiho followed post-haste, leaving Goro to stew in his thoughts for a few moments alone.

“A wild card…” Goro whispered to no one in particular as his memories offered no answers still.


Ryuji and Morgana got side-tracked from their plan to find Ren when guards began speaking of a princess. Morgana scouted ahead only to confirm that it was Ann from earlier who had somehow managed to return to the castle. Whether someone brought her into the castle, or she had found the MetaNav on her phone didn’t matter as she was now being held as a prisoner.

Earlier on near a dining hall area of the castle, the pair were able to hear her faint complaint “Is this some kind of filming!? Who’s in charge here!?”

They followed the voice and found a hallway with a red carpet flanked by statutes of guards on both sides.

“Look, I’ll apologize for touching the armor without permission!” she offered haughtily.

“She totally doesn’t get what’s goin’ on!” Ryuji shook his head at the absurdity of the situation.

“Let’s hurry! We have to save her!” Morgana chivalry shone through as the two busted through the door.


“What’s all this about!? Seriously, I’m gonna call the cops!” Ann was restrained in a spreadeagle position on an X-frame. A pair of guards flanked her sides, swords at the ready if she were to try anything.

“So, this is the intruder.” Kamoshida dressed in nothing but a robe and speedos underneath made himself known.

“Kamoshida!?” she then turned her eyes to the two other girls “Who are they…?”

Kamoshida brought with him two girls one that looked identical to Ann but was instead dressed in a purple bikini, practically leaving nothing to the imagination. The other girl… looked to be Shiho, dressed in a fluffy white bunny bikini.

“More importantly, what is this place!? Why’s the school turned into something like this?” Ann continued struggling with her bindings.

“I can’t believe you mistook my Ann for someone like her.” Kamoshida let out a horrendously terrifying chuckle “Are you afraid?”

“What is that outfit…? Have you lost your mind?” the circumstances just kept giving Ann question after question and she kept on asking.

“I do as I please here. After all, this is my castle… The world of my desires.”

“What the—!? Wait… is this some kind of red-light district!?” Ann spouted out the first thing that came to her head.

A bemused grin grew on the pervert’s face “What a lively slave.”

“This isn’t funny! Enough of the bullshit, Kamoshida!”

“Ooh, the slave decided to tell me off. What do you think of that, girls?”

“Talking back is, like… totally unforgivable…” the Ann lookalike swayed as she spoke with complete airheadedness.

“She’s gotta like, be punished and stuff…” the Shiho lookalike bounced up and down as words came out with a similar tone as the previous lookalike.

“In that case… she’ll have to do all the things Shiho’s done for me before…” Kamoshida’s words shook Ann to her core.

‘Shiho had to do this… with him?’ she didn’t want to believe it; she didn’t even want to suspect it before as it was too damning of a thought to bear. However, the twisted reality was now staring her in the face.

“Now then, how should I play with you?” the lecher walked forward with wholly decadent thoughts. His face’s arousal was clear and disgusting to Ann who could only writhe in fear.

The door breaks down as Ryuji kicks the door down to the dungeon where Ann was being held captive.

“Just when I was about to start enjoying myself…” Kamoshida groans in annoyance at the familiar presence.

“…How many times are you thieves gonna come back?”

“You bastard!” Ryuji drew his bludgeon and attempted to take run in only to be interrupted.

“Take one more step and I’ll give you her head!” Kamoshida knew the threat was hanging over his head has disgustingly unpalatable for even the blonde boy to consider.

“Dammit…!” the blonde boy could only spit and swear. Morgana and Ryuji had no plan other than breaking down the doors and going in guns blazing to save Ann. Now that was out of the table they were left to watch. Defeat became an increasingly common occurrence between Ryuji and Kamoshida.

“Just sit back and enjoy the show.” Kamoshida inched forward, savoring the terror that grew increasingly more evident on Ann’s face.

“No! Don’t!”

“Maybe I’ll start with the clothes…” his hands start reaching out with fingers creepily long.

“H-Hey, what’re we gonna do!?” Morgana panicked and turned to Ryuji, somehow expecting something out of the equally bewildered boy.

Ryuji, as expected, was lost “Ann…!”

Despair took over Ann and still Shiho and her own suffering was what sat on her mind “Is this my punishment…? Shiho…”

The wicked lecher licked his lips in anticipation, this had been a meal he had long-awaited for. “That’s more like it. You should’ve looked like this from the start.”

“Shiho… I’m so sorry…”

“For what!?” A familiar, friend voice burst forth from the same door that Ryuji and Morgana had come from. A girl dressed in mostly white with a brown jacket and a green cloak over it quite literally flew through the door.

“Ann, you idiot! Are you giving up now?” the familiar voice, the reason Ann could even stand going to Shujin Academy at all…

“Shiho…?”

“It’s Cloud in here actually.” another voice from beyond the broken door spoke up. This time it was Ren followed behind by Goro.

The two had tailed quite far behind from Shiho as the girl started going full speed as soon as she heard Ann’s voice. The two could only marvel in the remnants of the shadows she cleaved in half in her aggressive wake.

Kamoshida, realizing he was quickly losing control of the situation ordered his soldiers to close in “It’s like what I always say. Slaves should just behave and—”

“…Shut up!” the bound girl regained her vigour at the sight of her best friend “I’ve had enough of this…”

“You’ve pissed me off, you son of a bitch!” Ann screamed at the top of her lungs.

“My, it’s taken far too long.”

“Tell me… How can you deliver vengeance while chained?”

“Forgiving him was never the option…”

“Such is the scream of the other you that dwells within…”

“I am thou, thou art I…”

“We can finally forge a contract…”

“I hear you, Carmen, no more holding back”

“There we go… Nothing can be solved by restraining yourself.”

“Understand? Then I’ll gladly lend you my strength.”

A red feline-esque mask had appeared on Ann’s face and she easily broke through the restraints of the X-frame to rip it straight off her face, blood spattering in its wake. A pillar of blue flame appeared and quickly disappeared revealing Anne’s new form. She now wore a skin-tight red latex suit, a matching red panther mask, a darker red pair of thigh-high boots, and pink gloves.

Taking advantage of the surprise evident in Kamoshida and his guards, Shiho rushed it and cut one of the ordinary guards down. Ann kicked a broadsword out of one of the guards’ grip and took it as her own to cut down the cognitive copy of Shiho. Shiho did the same with her titanic sword to cut down Ann’s cognitive copy.

“You know what? We’re not some cheap girls you can toy with… you scumbag.” Ann rose and tossed away the broadsword.

“Bitch!” was Kamoshida’s witty retort.

“You’ve stolen so much from us… Now it's your turn!” Shiho stepped forward to Ann’s side.

“We will rob you of everything!” Ann and Shiho exclaimed in unison.

“How dare you! Enough of your insolence!” A guard captain shielded by golden armour charged forward, placing itself between the group of thieves and Kamoshida. It transmogrified itself into a shadow of a horned demon sitting upon a toilet.

‘Oh yeah, Belphegor’ Ren remembered this odd persona he had once recruited ‘An odd fellow…’

“How dare you deny King Kamoshida’s love, you selfish lass!? Pay for this insolence with your life!” the Guard Captain screeched out in tired rage.

“That dirtbag just sees women as sexual outlets! Don’t make me laugh with that “love” bullshit!” Ann gave no recourse for any of Kamoshida or his followers’ foolish views.

“C’mon Carmen! Let’s give ‘em hell!”

Ryuji, Morgana, Shiho, and Ann took their place as the vanguard whilst Ren and Goro waited behind in the reserves.

“Joker… are you sure it is wise for us not to participate?” Goro inquired about the validity of their current strategy.

“I am… curious about something. Let them fight.” Ren nodded to himself “Also, I don’t think we can pry any of those off that shadow right now…”

“True… it seems all of them have a personal investment against Kamoshida.” Goro deduced.

“Carmen! Agi!” a burst of flame erupted right in front of the guard captain which knocked it flat… on the ground. The three others quickly let loose with an all-out attack. 

“Boudicca! Cleave!” a blade crashed but clanged on impact with the guard captain dealing reduced damage.

“It’s resistant to physical attacks! Let’s try something else.” Morgana recommended after observing that last attack.

“Gotcha!”

“Captain Kidd! Zio!” the bolt struck and but barely managed to leave a scratch on the shadow.

“Dammit, it can also shrug off Electric too!”

Ren gave an order from the back “Skull, next chance you get, tag-out!”

“Ugh, fine…” he entered a defensive posture to not get caught off guard.

“Zorro! Garu!” the gust of wind did sizable damage but not enough to incapacitate it and the guard captain stayed firmly planted its toilet seat and demanded attention.

“You shall no longer sully Lord Kamoshida’s presence!” multiple localized slipstreams tore through all four active combat participants, one of it in particular was strong enough to leave Ryuji on the ground.

Ann was nearly overrun with fear at the sight “Ryuji!”

“Hah, pathetic boy! That is the price of defiance!”

“Carmen! Agi one more time!” Ann ground her teeth as she delivered her command. Animosity could be felt emanating from the platinum blonde girl but the intensity she burned with was enough to scare even her teammates to silence. The downed guard captain received the ferocity of only three combatants, but it was enough to defeat it.

“Oh shit…!” Kamoshida whispered before disappearing as soon as the Belphegor shadow was defeated.

“Wait…!” Ann wanted to give chase, but her knees disagreed with her.

“Why’d you come here Ann? Actually, that doesn’t matter, how’d you come here?” Ryuji approached her first to berate her before quickly detouring into a slightly rough questioning.

Morgana delivered his worry second “Are you alright, Lady Ann!?”

“Lady Ann!?” Shiho loudly wondered what that meant before sharing the same reaction as Ann immediately after.

“Wait, what is this thing? Is it alive…? How can it talk?” Ann started examining Morgana by rubbing his head and pulling his cheek in her mock experimentation.

“And… where in the world are we…!?” Ann surveyed her surroundings, still in a daze at the situation escalation now that solely adrenaline wasn’t fueling her.

A pair of familiar feminine arms enveloped Ann in a hug “It’ll be alright. Ann, you’ll be alright…”

“Shiho! Shiho… you’re Shiho! I thought you jumped…” Ann returned the embrace and started sobbing at her recollection of the events earlier today before noticing something odd about all the people in this room.

“Wait what are you wearing!?” and then she inspected herself “What am I wearing!?”

“Ugh, what’s with this!?” Ann still wasn’t able to process the speed of changes and oddities surrounding her.

Ren decided to cut into the conversation at that opportune point “Huh, Shiho took this significantly better.”

“Um… I kinda just passed out immediately after.” Shiho raised her had to dismiss Ren's teasing.

“And who are you? And is that Goro-senpai?” Ann turned her attention to the two boys that weren’t involved with the fight at all.

‘Goro-senpai…?’ Ren made sure to make note of that one.

“Joker, at your service.” He bowed deeply whilst placing one hand behind and the other crossed forward to emphasize how seriously he took this. Which is to say, he mocked the very process and made light of any severity.

“First Suzui, now Goro-senpai.” Ryuji started counting them all, five students total “Man, our school sure has a lot of persona peeps…!”

‘Ryuji too?’

Morgana ignored Ryuji’s comment “Joker? Joker! You already came up with a codename?”

“It was the one you were going to give me, wasn’t it Mona?” he playfully winked at the not-cat.

“And you already know mine as well!” Morgana was left awestruck once more “You truly are exceptional…”

“Ugh, guys we should probably leave. Patrols should come around this area soon enough.” Morgana came to his senses and alarmed the party of their preferable course of action.

“Alright, Crow and I will clear a path, you guys handle Ann.” Ryuji lifted Ann from her right whilst Shiho handled her left while Morgana kept an eye behind them.

“Let’s go!”


Ren and Goro were far, far ahead of the group carrying Ann. As Ren intended to have a private conversation with the man that he wasn’t quite sure what to make of yet.

“So, what were you trying to observe earlier.” Goro started with his inquiry, curious as to what Ren meant by declining to participate in the fight.

Ren began his explanation “How the team would react to Skull being downed.”

“You anticipated that would happen?”

“Yeah, it did last time too…” Ren delivered it with a complete deadpan.

“You can remember that much detail!?” Goro’s mouth hung open.

Ren shook his head “Nah, battles are just easy to remember because it’s a pretty simple back and forth.” as otherwise, he’d have remembered that Suzui always existed in the past and was Ann’s catalyst for awakening Carmen.

“How Ann reacted to Ryuji getting downed… was new.” Ren noticed the same thing in the gymnasium “And it's not something I could’ve changed in the few days I’ve had with these memories.”

“Things already changed, even among the existing Phantom Thieves…” he quietly pondered whilst Goro remained silent.

“Also, what’s this about ‘Goro-senpai’?” another point of contention, other than the whole fact that Goro was now attending Shujin “They’re already on a first-name basis with you?”

“Yes, didn’t I ask you to do the same with me because everyone else already did?”

“Everyone else… you meant the Phantom Thieves?” Ren became wide-eyed at the revelation… that all the thieves might be more familiar with Goro than himself.

“At least the ones at Shujin… Fox and Oracle are not easy to just speak to.”

“Not that I haven’t tried to of course…” Goro added as cheekily as he could.

“Wait—” questions leading to question, a familiar feeling for Ren as he pondered what Goro was aiming for “So everyone here knows you…”

“Is that why you came to Shujin? To get to know the Phantom Thieves?” Ren questioned plainly and without judgment.

“In a way, I found my memories of them to be distinctly lacking… so I intended to remedy it.” Goro had a content smile on his face as if reminiscing memories… and Ren had a feeling that the boy named Ren had no role in those.


The six persona users met at the familiar Beef Bowl Shop at Central Street, Shibuya. Five seats were taken, a given since a cat was not particularly welcome at this kind of establishment.

“So, you two had your personas for a while now?” Ryuji questioned in-between taking bites.

“Why didn’t you do anything about Kamoshida, Goro-senpai?” Ann asked earnestly, not a trace of bitterness in her voice as she played around with her food.

“Well honestly… I was too weak.” the oldest member of the group sincerely confessed “I tried to fight inside that palace… however, I was just one person.”

“Stray shadows are easy enough to dispose of… total weaklings. The deeper and higher one gets though in a Palace, the more challenging it became, especially someone all by their lonesome.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean to lay it all on you like that Goro-senpai!” Ann apologized, believing she had offended her upperclassman.

“It no trouble, Ann.” Goro passed the salt “but I do have to admit I’m glad that there are so many of us that got attracted to Amamiya-kun.”

Ren promptly elbowed him for that comment “May want to try again, Goro.” he practically hissed out to him.

“I just meant that we are all connected to the new transfer student one way or another.” Akechi flashed an innocent yet knowing smile.

‘Nice save’ Ren mentally grumbled as his annoyance was in how Goro had described the people around him ‘it's not like I’m TRYING to build a harem…’

“Do you mind… us asking what’s the truth behind those rumours?” Shiho was the one to bring up what had floated around everyone’s mind.

“Yeah, I'm curious too!” Morgana peered out of the bag as inconspicuously as possible as a topic of interest to him had finally come up.

“Well…” Ren detailed the story of his arrest, trial, and conviction.

How he had helped a woman who was being harassed by a drunk man during the middle of the night.

'Please... help!'

How the man fell on his own and had the gall to threaten to sue him.

'Damn brat... I'll sue!'

How the drunk man managed to convince the woman he was harassing to testify against a minor.

'That you man suddenly attacked him... He shoved this gentleman to the ground'.

How the choices he was left with was either juvenile hall or yearlong probation in Tokyo.

'Sorry...'

He omitted Shido’s name as that was privy information to be shared at a later date.

“Dude, all that just because you tried to help someone?” Ryuji was positively livid, and he had nearly snapped his chopsticks by merely listening to the story.

“That’s bullshit, that’s no reason for them to ruin your life.” Ann shared Ryuji's frustration at the tale and was glad she finished eating as her appetite disappeared quickly as Ren told his sorry.

“Ren… this world is truly cruel isn’t it…?” Shiho felt no anger as she felt it was pointless. She did feel disappointed and disillusioned at the systems that were supposedly in place to help are used to hinder.

“I didn’t know… I’m sorry Ren, Chief must have a pretty big heart to take you in…” Morgana mumbled to himself and the not-cat had no idea how right he was.

“Disgusting adults like those deserved to be punished.” Everyone turned to Goro when he chimed in, partly because he had snapped his chopsticks in half after Ren had finished telling his story. Ren was unsure if Goro even remembered that the man that in the story was Shido but his reaction told him that it didn't matter who it was, the boy's hatred for authority figure like the one Ren described ran deep.

“It’s in the past now…” Ren continued quickly before someone could rashly interject “And I’m glad I moved to Tokyo… nobody in my hometown believed me when I told my side of the story.”

“I’m honestly really happy that all of you do.” Ren didn’t mean to have tears well up in his eyes. He didn’t think he cried last time when it was just Ryuji and him here… but he couldn’t help it. He wasn’t just celebrating with friends… he was celebrating his second chance.


‘Had fun, did you?’

‘Wait what’s going on here?’

‘Don’t tell me you forgot again… I do not want to keep explaining it.’

‘You’re that person that made me sign the contract!’

‘Oh, he does remember!’

‘And… you’re preventing me from entering the Velvet Room?’

‘Another point for frizzy-hair’

‘Can’t you at least learn my name?’

‘I don’t care…’

‘Will you at least tell me why I’m not allowed in the Velvet Room?’

‘Because you’ll yap to Igor… and we can’t have that.’

‘Why not? Isn’t he helping me, he was helping me…’

‘I don’t know why you’d think someone who’d put you behind bars would be helping you…’

‘You make a good point …  but you’re not making a case as to why I should believe you.’

‘Sent you back here so you don’t mess things up, not good enough for you?’

‘I suppose… it’s something.’

‘Good, now take a nap… I need one too.’

Dreamless sleep consumed him once more.


[Joker]

RANK UP! Universe Confidant has reached Rank 2.


STRENGTH CONFIDANT (Shiho Suzui)

Rank 2 [Baton Pass]: Allows you to pass your turn over to other Baton Pass users after 1 More

Rank 3 [Follopw Up]: Chance to perform a follow-up attack if Joker or Crow's attack does not down the enemy.

Rank 4 [Emphatic Aura]: Chance to step in after Shadow negotiation fails, allowing a retry

Rank 6 [Harisen Recovery]: Chance to cure status ailments inflicted upon party members.

Rank 7 [Spike]: The first attack against enemies during a sneak attack will always critically hit.

Rank 8 [Endure]: Chance to withstand an otherwise fatal attack with 1 HP remaining.

Rank 9 [Protect]: Chance to shield Joker or Crow from an otherwise fatal attack.

Chapter Text

Saturday, 16th of April 2016
2-D Classroom, Shujin Academy
Afternoon

Urushimaru-sensei’s afternoon lesson wasn’t particularly engrossing. The material they were going over was something Ren had gone through multiple times before in preparation for exams which made it made it particularly hard to forget. It was also painfully boring to listen to for what felt like the 7th time. In the heat of boredom, his phone vibrated to life and he noticed Ann’s did as well.

‘Must be Ryuji in the group chat…’


[PT#H]

Ryuji Hey, we’re meeting up at the hideout after school, right?

Ann   Don’t text now. We’re in class.

Ryuji Whoa! You mean you’re actually listening to all that crap?

Goro  As everyone’s upperclassman here, this can be discussed after classes.

Really have to agree with Goro here. Ren

Ann and Ryuji don’t seem to have the best track record. Ren

When it comes to exams. Ren

Ann   Yeah I know, but none of it is really sticking today…

Shiho Ann! Not you too!

Ryuji I know, right?

Ryuji Anyways, hideout after school?

Ann   Where exactly is this “hideout”?

Ryuji The school roof.

Ann   What the hell, Ryuji!

Do watch what you say Ryuji. Ren

Shiho It all right everyone… we can meet on the roof.

Ryuji Oh, shit. My bad, Shiho!

Shiho It should be fine if all of you are there with me.

Shiho So no need to change plans.

Goro  Are you sure Shiho-san? We can relocate quite easily if needed.

Shiho It is no trouble, I assure you senpai.

Goro  Very well, I shall inform Makoto-san and Haru-san about it beforehand so we don’t get unexpected visitors.

Goro  Ryuji, you still got the key I gave you?

Ryuji Got it!

Shiho This is all so exciting!

I’ll see you all later Ren

[PT#H]

“Hey, Amamiya!” the teacher’s attention is directed towards the bespectacled boy “You! Pay attention! Is that how you listen when someone’s talking to you?”

Ushimaru-sensei’s murderous intent could be felt in the whole classroom.

‘I know what this means…’ Ren sighed internally.

Ren dodges the incoming chalk instinctively as he had done so many times before. He made sure to give everyone a cocksure smirk afterward as well.

2-D erupted into barely concealed murmurs directed at Ren immediately after.

“Whoa! That was an epic dodge!”

“That was nuts… is he a ninja?”

Ushimaru-sensei shook his head though it was unclear whether it was from disappointment or being impressed “Tch. Well, whatever. Moving on.”

‘Maybe I should try catching it next time…’


Ren took a detour to the library on his way to the roof for the meeting. He had been curious as to who Shiho’s Persona, Boudicca, was as he had a habit of looking up the history of his teammates Persona’s as he did beforehand. Something else caught his eye on his way to the library.

Goro and Haru having a chat, what an odd sight considering what he did in the future-past.

‘He did mention he’d tell Makoto and Haru about us using the roof…’ Ren decided that it’d be nice to introduce himself.

Ren decided to let himself be known to the two “Goro? You’re still here?”

“Ren, I thought we still had time?”

“Goro-kun, who’s this?” Haru peered over to look at him, her face unsure of what to convey.

“Ah, remember the transfer student I told you about?”

“Oh, so you’re Amamiya-kun?” Haru brightened at the information “Goro-kun hasn’t been able to stop talking about you!” it seemed Goro had put quite a few good words in her ears about him.

Ren raised a single brow “Has he now?” almost teasingly well done too.

Haru’s smile grew a bit too wide “In fact… he’s been talking a bit too much about you…”

“Goro-kun, is there something you’re not telling me?” despite the smile Haru was giving the boys, the aura she was emitting gave off the opposite feeling.

‘This is at least ten times worse than Ushimaru-sensei!’

“Uhm… W-well you see—” Ren decided to interject to the helpless Goro… in his own twisted way “I’m sorry, but I do have to take him off your hands for now.”

For a brief moment, the girl’s smile became strained and one could swear they could’ve seen a comical cross popping on her forehead too “I see… I’ll see you later, Goro-kun!”

“Take care of him, Amamiya-kun!” Ren didn’t feel reassured at her singalong tone at all.

As the two boys made their way to the roof, Goro finally let out a sigh of relief once Haru was out of sight. The two began climbing the stairs towards the rooftop before Goro dared to open his mouth, still fearing the girl he had essentially ditched.

Goro shook his head “Why did you have to provoke her like that?”

“I dunno… but you two though… something going on there?” Ren teased the older boy, poking his arm along the way.

Before Akechi could respond, familiar shouting let them know they were indeed late to the party.

“God, why are you’re such an idiot Ryuji?” Ann’s voice made itself know first.

“I’m sorry alright, you know I didn’t mean it like that at all!” Ryuji apologized quite loudly.  

“Ann, it’s alright… it didn’t bother me at all.” Shiho attempted to diffuse the seemingly inevitable fight between the two. By the looks of it, Ann was the only one that kept pushing.

“Are we late?” Ren and Goro made their presence known to the three already on the roof.

“Looks like we’re all here.” Goro counted all six of them on the roof as Morgana had exited Ren’s bag.

“Let’s get started then!” Morgana commanded, excited to see Ren in action once more.

“Yeah!” Ryuji agreed immediately.

Ann stopped the two quickly “Hold on! Shiho and I still don’t know what it is we’re going to do!”

“Hey! I already explained before they even got here!” Ryuji sat on the seat indignantly “Right, Shiho?”

“Sorry Ryuji-kun, but we didn’t understand a thing of what you explained to us.”

“You girls really are cruel.” Ryuji hung his head in shame. He could not catch a break today.

“Alright then, we’ll let our leader explain it then.” Morgana announced looking at Ren expectantly.

Ann didn’t catch Morgana’s gesture and turned to the brown-haired boy instead “Goro-senpai?”

“Oh no, I didn’t make this group. That would be him.” Goro waved his had defensively before pointing towards Ren.

Ann put a finger on her chin as she thought about it “But aren’t you the eldest out of all of us?”

“While that is true, Ren is still our leader.” Goro deferred gracefully.

“Okay then, take it away, Renren.”

“…Ok.” he rolled his eyes at Ryuji’s nickname for him, after months of hearing it he still wasn’t sure if he liked it or not.

“The castle we went to yesterday is the distorted cognition of Kamoshida of the school.”

“Shiho do you remember what I told you when we activated the MetaNav?”

“Yes, we had to input three things into it. Name, Location and Distortion.”

“In Kamoshida’s case it’d be his name, Shujin Academy and—” Ren scanned the group to see no one had their apps open “Castle.”

“The places we travel to are what we’d call ‘Palaces’.” Morgana added along with an extended explanation “They are the distorted desires of the ruler. It is how they truly view themselves in the depths of their hearts.”

“The cognitive replicas you see inside is also how they perceive others as well.” Ren returned to finish the segue.

“Disgusting bastard…” Ann muttered under her breath. She was more frustrated at Kamoshida’s cognitive version of Shiho than of her own scantily clad version.

“What can we do about… the distorted desires?” Shiho fidgeted as she inquired. Whilst she was grateful to Ren for saving her yesterday, she couldn’t help feeling wary being in the presence of three boys.

“We steal the source of distorted desires.” Ren elaborated “It would be called a Treasure’ in this case.”

He paused for a moment to consider how to describe said treasure “It’d be easier to explain what a treasure is once we reach it inside the Palace proper.”

Morgana impatiently added “Stealing it would result in their distorted desires being removed.”

“The impact of such a change would leave them unable to cope with the guilt of their actions.” Ren continued after Morgana’s addition “Resulting in them confessing their crimes themselves.”

The information was only new to the two girls. They were left in thought and the silence would’ve permeated had Goro not added another possibility.

“There is also the possibility of eliminating Kamoshida’s Shadow.”

“Goro!” Ren barked out “Doing that would trigger a mental shutdown in reality!” the bespectacled leader of the Phantom Thieves shook his head in exasperation.

“Just pointing it as an option… some rotten adults like Kamoshida don’t deserve such kindness…” the cold tone in his voice was unfamiliar to all but Ren himself.

“Dude…” Ryuji commented as everyone recognized the dark glint in Goro’s eyes that had appeared during their beef bowl party last night.

Ann faces Goro down, eye to eye “No… they’d suffer much more if they were alive…”

“Lady Anne?” Morgana’s voiced everyone’s thoughts about Ann’s apparently mercilessness.

“A mental shutdown…? Like the ones reported on the news.” Shiho pieced it together.

Ren’s arm sagged partially in defeat “Yeah…”

“Woah! You didn’t tell me about this… is what we’re doing related to all those mental shutdowns that have been going up in the news?” Ryuji added as he was unsure what to think of their leader at the moment.

Ren himself was lost in thought as he had managed to avoid most news broadcasts recently.

‘Wait, if Goro is here… and presumably without his memories…’ he was still wary of the boy who ended up being the Black Mask.

‘If he’s not the one causing the mental shutdowns…’ yet Ren felt in this time, he deserved the benefit of the doubt.

Which left a more terrifying question ‘Who is?’

“I am… looking into it…” Ren weakly explained as somehow feeling like his words were somehow untruthful.

“That’s how I know about the Metaverse in the first place. This isn’t the first Palace I’ve been into.”

Ryuji was taken aback by wide-eyed fear “But shit man… someone’s using this Metaverse place to kill people?”

“C-can we s-stop someone like that?” Shiho stutters out. She shared the same apprehension as Ryuji, if not greater.

“We can.” Ren’s confidence was unfounded, but it seemingly bolstered everyone’s creeping insecurities regardless.

“I’m not asking any of you any of you to fight them.” Ren bowed to the two girls “For now, let's focus on Kamoshida’s Palace and stealing his treasure.”

Ren glanced at Goro for a mere moment “Which means, no killing him.”

The team had fallen completely silent. Everyone considered what it meant to be using the Metaverse if someone else was using it for such nefarious means such as straight-up murder. The blonde boy scratched his head in irritation and was first to move towards Ren.

Ryuji hung his arm around Ren’s shoulder suddenly “Hey man, you helped me right from the start. I’ll keep following you until my legs give out if I have to!”

“Thanks… I’m not asking for any of you to come to a decision right now…”

“But I’d really appreciate it if you’d continue helping me after we’ve dealt with Kamoshida!” Ren pleaded earnestly. The future-past reminded him of how dangerous being a Phantom Thief would become… yet he knew he could not accomplish much alone.

“Dude, there’s no way I’d leave you alone!” Ryuji gave him a hard slap on the back.

“Same here, I still need help exploring Mementos after all…” Morgana admitted quickly.

“I don’t know how to repay you from saving me… from myself. If this is how, I’ll stand by you.” Shiho fidgeted with her hands behind her back.

“Hey, it's okay Ren. There’s no way we’d just stand back and watch.” Ann gave their leader a thumbs up.

“The identity of the perpetrator of the mental shutdown piques my interest… and a Phantom Thief shouldn’t abandon one of their own now.”

Ren gave his signature slight cocky, but still endearing smile to the group.

“Let’s get started.” he pulled out his phone.

“Beginning Navigation.”


“Damn…” Skull was totally NOT inconspicuously checking out the newest member of the team.

“Oh yeah, what should we do about her codename?” Mona brought up the most important part of being a Phantom Thief.

“Codename?” Ann was confused though she did remember them calling each other by weird names inside the castle yesterday.

Ren looked through all of them “Everyone, roll call!”

“I’m Mona!” Morgana started it off.

“Skull.” Ryuji pointed his thumb to his mask.

“Cloud.” Shiho gave Ann a twirl.

“Crow.” Goro tapped on his mask’s beak.

“And I’m Joker.”

“Judging by her costume…”

“I mean she’s got that tail and stuff, so…”

“Sexy Cat?” Ren whispers to Ryuji ear.

“Sexy Cat?” Ryuji repeated it loud and clear.

Ann looked mortified at the suggestion “Wait! I am SO not down with this!”

“Neither am I!” Shiho grabbed Ann by the arm. Unwilling to give her over to the rest of the team.

“I think she fits something like… ‘Panther’…” Shiho tossed in her own suggestion for Ann’s codename.

“Well, it certainly is a ferocious sound name…” Goro added which made Ann blush at the insinuation.

“This coming from someone who tried to name themselves ‘Karasu’…” Ren tapped his foot impatiently at Goro.

Goro started laughing at his own expense “Haha, true enough!”

“She’s a cougar…!” Mona sputtered carelessly.

Shiho’s eyes narrowed at the not-cat creature “Mona, would you like to repeat that…?” one could claim the temperature dropped several degrees once she gave the threat. That did shut Morgana up beautifully though.

“I like the name, ‘Panther it is!” Ann gave it her seal of approval.

However, the ponytailed girl was already revving up her minigun aimed straight at Morgana.

‘Wait… a WHAT?’

“Cloud… Why do you have one of the most inappropriately named guns with you?” Ren could guess to the why but he’d like to hear it first.

‘A better question would be how you brought it to school…’ Ren then thought back to another teammate ‘Then again Haru did manage to do it with a Grenade Launcher…’

Shiho stopped what she was doing, seemingly sparring Morgana for the moment “This? Ryuji let me take it.”

Everyone just turned to Ryuji with incredibly judgemental stares.

“W-what? Iwai told me it was a steal…” Ryuji retorted weakly.

“Remind me never to let Ryuji go to Untouchables by himself again…” Ren lamented to no one in particular.

“I like it.” Shiho had a sweet smile as she packed her minigun.

‘What is it with the girls in the Phantom Thieves being absolutely terrifying?’


Maneuvering around the Kamoshida’s Palace as a group of six made for easy pickings against shadows. The combined firepower and backup behind them let the thieves essentially bulldoze through most of the guards and the shadows hiding within them. The active vanguard of four also rotated to keep everyone somewhat rested and at their best fighting form with the only exception being Joker or Crow only swapping with each other due to their wild card abilities.

The team made it to a cathedral-like area that was immediately familiar to Ren. The cognition of the area shifted momentarily to reveal the gym. The group walked in between the church benches and approached the altar that was in front of them a giant and gaudy statue of Kamoshida in his robes.

“I get it… The gym’s some kinda holy place for him. He’s a god there.” everyone came to the same realization, but Ryuji was the one to voice it out.

“I can’t believe he can think like that… especially after…” Ann bit her tongue and looked to her right at Shiho.

“I can…” Shiho spoke up “He is scum.” Though she was unwilling to look at the disgusting statue of Kamoshida and preferred the red carpet instead.

Goro’s eye narrowed at the statue at the centre “Truly a disgusting man… his comeuppance shall taste sweet.”

“I see… so you’re the ones who had desecrated this castle so many times before.”

“It seems my time waiting here has paid off…” a disembodied voice boomed throughout the cathedral.

“Just as that ape there said, this place is a holy ground for our great King Kamoshida.” a golden knight revealed itself before the altar “It is preposterous for miscreants like yourselves to come waltzing in like this.”

“You will pay for foolishly defying King Kamoshida… with your lives!” it unveiled its own mask to reveal an Archangel behind it.

Morgana already got into his combat stance “I knew this would happen! Well, we don’t have a choice! Let’s take it down!”

The Archangel readied itself by gathering its power into a single Charge.

Ren easily identified what that was “Everyone, alternate between attacking and guarding!”

“You do not want to be hit by a fully charged attack by this guy!”

Shiho was the first target of the Archangel’s cleave but was able to easily shrug it off with the prior exchange.

“Any weakness you recommend, Joker?” Morgana inquired, disliking the current snail's pace they were working through their foe.

Joker recalled his previous encounters with them later on in Kamoshida’s palace “Electric! Zio should work…!”

“I got this!” Ryuji went forward “Captain Kidd!!” and attempted to down the shadow with a bolt of lightning.

It failed.

The shadow had already used charged previously and directed its cleave at Ryuji.

“Ugh…” Ryuji nearly got knocked unconscious.

‘What?’

“Sorry about that Skull…” Ren shook his head ‘I swear Archangels are weak to Electric attacks…’

‘Did it have something to do with how eloquent and… aware this shadow was?’ Ren pondered, there were certainly shadows like this one previously.

He delivered the final blow to the shadow He tuned out whatever his team said with his thoughts ‘It certainly is more intelligent than the others we bulldozed through earlier.’

The Archangel disappeared into nothingness… yet Ren was still frozen in place. Thoughts hundreds of miles away from his team’s own.

Mona noticed Ren’s odd behaviour “Joker, don’t think too hard on it…”

“It was a mistake… I can’t afford those.” Ren attracted his whole team’s attention.

“Dude, I’m okay… don’t beat yourself up over it!” Ryuji honestly didn’t get bothered by it and attempted to reassure their leader.

‘I just can’t do that…’ his mind flashed back to the Cruiser of Pride and the tragedy that had unfolded. His fists clenched hard and he bit his tongue to distract him from the pain each beat of his heart.

“…Sorry Skull, just… I’ll be alright. Let Crow lead you guys for now.” before anyone could protest, he sent a commanding glare at all of them that stunned them to silence “I’ll catch up after.”

“…Ok. We’ll be waiting for you!” Ryuji turned around and walked away with the rest of the team.

‘Just what am I doing…?’ he bit down harder.

Until he tasted the blood.


The remaining five members cut through their path and were currently ascending a spiralling staircase. Everyone would rather forget the sights they had passed by with how Kamoshida had viewed the girls' volleyball team but it somehow got worse the further they got in.

“Is it really alright for us to just leave him back there.” Ryuji kicked a pebble away from their path.

“It’s his orders. We obey them.” Goro didn’t add any more. He could deduce why Ren was feeling given his knowledge of the future. It wasn’t his story to tell the team and he still worried about his own deficiencies regarding his memories.

Ryuji slammed his pipe on the wall in frustration “I get that… but…”

“Skull, I understand your concern…” Morgana, surprisingly, was the one who reassured the blonde boy “But, this is something we just have to leave him alone for.”

Ann rubbed Ryuji shoulder comfortingly “He’ll talk to us when he feels he’s ready…”

“He has been doing this longer than any of us…” Shiho added her piece “getting something wrong and which almost led to you nearly knocked unconscious must have really shaken him.”

“I just wish he knew I was alright y’know?” Ryuji sighed softly “…cause I don’t blame him at all!”

“I do wonder how long he’s been doing this for though…” Morgana was impressed by their leader’s knowledge, yet he still seemed so mysterious. Even more than Morgana’s own amnesia he felt at times.

Goro absentmindedly spoke up “…he’ll tell us when he’ll tell us.”

“Crow…” Shiho voice was shaky “Do you know something about Joker’s… past?”

Goro could feel his blood running cold at the comment.

“What are you talking about Cloud? Joker just transferred here a couple of days ago!” Ann questioned almost jokingly whilst still comforting Ryuji.

“…but it seems like those two are already particularly close.”

Goro felt his heartbeat attempting to escape his chest “I-It isn’t like that… it's just not my story to tell.”

“Because I don’t remember much about what happened to me in the past either…” he confessed quietly but it was audible enough for everyone to hear.

“Crow? But you’ve been an awesome senpai to all of us!” Ryuji couldn’t stand seeing his senpai looking sad one bit “at least me…”

“You convinced the student council president to not shut down the track team even after the bullshit Kamoshida pulled!”

“I may not be part of it anymore… but you helped me out big time with that!” Ryuji’s words reached deep into Goro. It felt undeserved to him somehow…

“Thank you, Skull…”


[Crow]

I am thou, thou art I
Thou hast acquired a new vow,

It shall become the wings of rebellion
that breaketh thy chains of captivity,

With the birth of the Chariot Persona,
I have obtained the winds of blessing that
shall lead to freedom and new power…


‘That voice again…’

“I’d just… don’t bring it up with Joker okay?” Goro gave up on trying to explain their past “He’ll tell us what’s wrong when he’s ready.”

“Got it Leader Number Two!” Ryuji saluted his senpai.

“…Number Two?” Goro raised a single brow though the other members nodded in some kind of agreement.

“Yeah, Joker’s ‘Number One’ then you’re next!” Ryuji clarified… poorly.

“You mean like a second-in-command? Vice-Leader?” Shiho provided a bit more.

“Whatever, you lead us when Joker needs a break! I’m down for that.” Morgana agreed, he didn’t know why but the whole team's trust in Goro just seeped easily into all of them.

Goro smiled outside but his mind replayed that memory from yesterday… his apparent plan of selling out the thieves. It weighed heavier than any secret he’d have to withhold before.

‘Who was I…?’

“Gah!” Ann ear-piercing shriek penetrated reached all of them loud and clearly. The team rushed over to the stop of the staircase to see Ann squaring off against a golden guard.

“This majestic tower penetrating the sky represents the admirable King Kamoshida’s most sacred place…” it exclaimed proudly “It is nowhere for children like yourselves! Prepare for punishment!”

“What kind of selfish reasoning is that!? The only one that needs to be punished is—” Ann couldn’t even finish before the guard transformed into a Mara Slime.

“A-Ahhhhhhh!” Ann shrieked again at the sight of the shadow.


Ren snuck past tons of shadows with ease. One would wonder how poor their security was when a boy sticking to a corner was enough to fool the guards even when they were right beside him.

The sounds of bullet fire and Goro’s distinctive toy weapons firing off was enough of a lead for Joker to follow. He wasn’t prepared for what he saw though.

“Take it! Take it you disgusting monster!” Shiho was screaming maniacally as she continued unloading her minigun into nothing in particular.

“Uh… Cloud? It’s gone…” Morgana tried talking sense into her… though it looked like he’d been doing this over and over now.

“Its punishment hasn’t ended yet!” even maniacal laughter “How dare such a beast touch Ann in such a manner!”

“Cloud!” Joker tried calling out to Shiho which somehow worked. She let go of the minigun as it clanged onto the ground.

“Joker! You’re back!” Ryuji and Morgana ran and practically tackled their way through to Joker.

Goro shook his head at the sight at every single teammate present “At least you can snap her out of it…”

“Everyone…? What was going on…” Shiho spoke normally for the first time since he got here “And why does this place looked so…” destroyed, was what she was looking for but before she got there, the realization dawned on her.

“No… it was me?” her face lit up like a Christmas tree in embarrassment.

Ann walked over to the now pacified Shiho “We have to talk about this… repressed anger you have, Shiho.”

“Oh god no, please stop looking at me!”

‘I’m not entirely sure what I walked into… but.’ Ren looked for the right words to say “I’m glad you’re all okay. I’m sorry for worrying everyone.”

“No problem dude, talk to any of us when you feel like you can!” Ryuji sincerely spoke for everyone there… maybe except Shiho as she still was having a comical breakdown at what happened.

Ren turned to the girl who had curled up on the ground “Is it okay to ask what happened?”

Everybody remained silent at the inquiry. Everyone except Shiho who continued muttering some variation of ‘stop looking at me’ and the like.

“Okay…”


Through another flight of near-endless stairs, the thieves went through only to come short at a massive door.

Morgana’s senses had been piqued ever since reaching the latest floor “The Treasure is most likely ahead… We’re almost there.”

“Understood.” the thieves nodded and scoured a way to get passed the door. Fortunately for them, Joker had done this once before.

Joker identified an entry pathway that required the team scaled the statue of a female volleyball player which lead to an opening into the next room’s balcony.

“Ok! We’re in, good going, Joker!” Ryuji slapped their leader in the back quite loudly.

Morgana shushed the blonde boy quiet “Skull, be quiet!”

“Kamoshida…!” Shiho whispered with rage burning bright in her eyes.

“And a ton of soldiers…” Ann’s concern was a bit more immediate given that there wasn’t any way to eliminate those soldiers.

On his throne, Kamoshida ranted at his guards “How have those intruders not been apprehended yet!?”

“I apologize, my liege!” the closest guard offered weakly before being offed by Kamoshida.

“He’d never imagine we’re in the same room as him. Let’s go forward…” Goro reminded them all of their objective “the treasure should be up ahead.”

The six snuck on the balcony above with ease, none of the guards cared to pay attention to the upper floors of the throne room. It was simple enough for the thieves to get to the door at the far end of the throne room and sneaking in had been a cinch as well.

“This sturdy-lookin’ door’s looking pretty promisin’. Let’s head inside!” Ryuji ran his hand across the door before pushing it open.

Inside was a room filled with so much gold and golden accessories that it became hard to see anything from its sheen.

Ryuji mouth nearly watered at the sight “Whoa, what is this place!? Holy shit!”

“That treasure is in here? But there’s so much…” Shiho scanned the room and its near-endless bounty.

“Hey what is this? It’s floating in the air.” Ann pointed out the oddity in the centre of the room. A mysterious light source no larger than one’s head that emitted every colour on the spectrum.

“Hehe… That’s the treasure. We finally found it!” Morgana smugly proclaimed.

Ren observed the familiar sight “It hasn’t materialized yet though…”

“Whaddya mean…?” Ryuji frowned. The true nature of the Treasure is difficult to grasp.

“Desires have no physical form by nature.” Morgana puffed his chest out and continued his explanation “Hence, we’ll first need to make the real person aware that their desires are in fact a Treasure.”

“Once they’re conscious that their desires might be stolen, the Treasure will show itself.”

Shiho shared her confusion “How do we accomplish that?”

“We warn them. Tell them, ‘We’re going to steal your heart.” a smirk on Ren’s lips as he answers in place of Morgana.

“A calling card!? Sweet, that’s totally something a phantom thief would do!” Ryuji pumped his hand in excitement.

“Once we do that, the Treasure will appear for certain! I think…” Morgana’s determination grew shaky in the end which made Ryuji almost doubt until—

Ren caught it effortlessly “No, it will appear.”

“So, we’ve secured the infiltration route.” Goro confirmed.

“All that’s left to do is pump out a calling card in reality, then come back for the Treasure!” Morgana finished his explanation and looked around at everyone.

“This is it huh?” Ann asked no one in particular.

“Kamoshida is going down!” Ryuji’s excitement never fails to come out on top in situations like these.

“He’ll finally pay…” Shiho’s eyes glazed over at the prospect of stealing the heart of someone as cruel as Kamoshida.

“So this is the first heist, huh…” Goro smiled, feeling positively refreshed at the experience.

Ren closed his eyes and came to a decision “We’ll meet up tomorrow to discuss this then?”

“Uh, Joker. It’s Sunday tomorrow… the schools closed.” Ryuji pointed out the obvious. Their leader would’ve been ashamed but then—

Goro stepped forward “I believe I can help with that.”

“Oh yeah… the student council has been really useful since you joined senpai!”

“Thank you, though I’m quite sure this would be considered a misuse of power…” the eldest of the group gave a weak smile.

“Nothing wrong with misusing it to stop people like Kamoshida!” Ryuji’s spoke his mind.

“…indeed…” Goro smiled at the vote of confidence the blonde boy and everyone else in the thieves had for him.


‘You’re finally going after that PE teacher?’

‘Yeah… why?’

‘Eh, you seem to be ahead of schedule by the looks of it.’

‘Really? I didn’t notice…’

‘Well, I’m sure you noticed things are quite a bit different this time around at least.’

‘You know about that? What do you know about it!?’

‘Yes and I don’t know other than things are different.’

‘That was helpful…’

‘You're welcome… *yawn*’

‘Are we done?’

‘I don’t care…’

‘Can I at least get your name?’

‘Hmm… no’

‘Can you tell me why?’

‘Yes.’

‘And?’

‘It’d complicate things if you gave my name out.’

‘Great…’

‘You can call me… Messiah’

‘How… humble’

‘I didn’t choose it…’

‘Is there anything else you can help us with…?’

‘Hm? Like what?’

‘I don’t know, you tell me. Aren’t you the one that sent me here?’

‘True… alright, I’ll help.’

‘How?’

‘You’ll notice it eventually’

Things ended abruptly as he returned to a dreamless sleep.


[Joker]

RANK UP! Universe Confidant has reached Rank 3.

Master of Strings: Unlocked Orpheus


 

 

 

Chapter Text

Sunday, 17th of April 2016
Shujin Academy, Aoyama Itchome
Morning

The sun shone clear in the sky as the six thieves gathered in front of the Shujin Academy gate.

“Aaagh! It’s way too early!” Ryuji let out a yawn.

Ann nodded as she covered her mouth “Agreed, why did we agree to this…?”

“I’ll open the backdoor for all of you…” everyone but the one who’s mouth had delivered the line started snickering. Goro simply raised his brow, unaware of the implication of his choice of words.

“Was it something I said…?” Ryuji and Ann burst in full-blown laughter at their senpai’s cluelessness.

Ren recalled how Makoto had been back then as well “How much time are you spending with the Student Council?”

“An ordinary amount…?” Goro was wholly perplexed by their exchange.

Even Shiho was beginning to find it difficult to stifle her laughter at their senpai.

“Ah… forget it, let’s just go!”      


The school was practically empty with the occasional weekend staff that could be spotted on site. Goro explained away that they were there for official Student Council work to which no one they met asked him to elaborate.

“Senpai, they just believe anything you say don’t they?” Ann pestered the third year. She wondered what else they could get away with his help.

Goro shook his head in honest denial “Well… I don’t believe ‘anything’ is quite accurate.”

“If we gotta send this calling card to get that treasure to be, like stealable.” Ryuji wondered aloud “Why not do it from the start?”

“A Treasure won’t stay materialized forever. If the target no longer feels as if their desires are under threat it will revert to the amorphous form, we saw earlier.”

“The effect of receiving a calling card can vary from person to person…” Ren elaborated on the mechanics of calling cards as best he could remember “But, we can assume that it’ll last around a day at most.”

“That’s way too fast…” Shiho fretted over the supposed allotted window of time the thieves had.

“Anyways, we can send a callin’ card out now, yeah? Let’s do it and steal that bastard’s heart!” Ryuji didn’t let it dampen his excitement though.

“Yeah…” Shiho agreed quietly.

“Kamoshida… that bastard’s going down!”

Ryuji flashed her a wicked grin “I’ve been waitin’ to hear you say that!”

“Tomorrow’s finally the day then.”

“So, we send the calling card in the morning… and carry out the plan by the end of the day, right?”

“Correct. The effect won’t last that long.” Morgana reaffirmed what Ren had discussed earlier. He proceeded with a final test of character for the thieves “Are you worried?”

“We’ve all waiting too long for this…” Ann reached out to Shino’s shoulder as the black-haired girl spoke.

“Perfect.” all members present nodded. They understood what they were doing meant no turning back.

“So, who’s going to write the card?” Ren raised the pertinent task to everyone present though he knew who had to do it.

Ryuji pointed his thumb to his chest “Leave it to me!”

“Why?” Shiho countered quickly.

“Why…? Why wouldn’t it be me!?” Ryuji thought it was obvious why he was the one to do it.

“This is important! Are you sure you can handle the pressure?” Ann grilled the blonde boy.

“I must agree.” Goro concurred with her assessment.

“I really wanna get him good!” Ryuji insisted “Lemme write it… C’mon, please?”

“Ryuji will be responsible for writing it.” Ren reached out for Shiho only to decide against it at the last moment “Is that alright with you, Shiho?” Ren directed his attention to the first major anomaly of this timeline. He could feel her desire to write the calling card, yet he could feel she was simultaneously unprepared.

“Y-yeah… I wouldn’t know what to write.” Shiho shrunk at her admittance. Ren understood that the circumstances were different this time yet he couldn’t see anyone but Ryuji writing the original card.

“Yeah, I got this!” Ryuji pumped his fist in the air at their leader’s acceptance.

Goro added no further comment as the decision was final. The discussion was over for Shiho as well though Ann still aired her grievances on the matter once last time.

“Hey, are you sure about this…? If they find out our identities, all our work will be for nothing…”

“I know, I know!” Ryuji insisted ‘I just know what’ll get under that sick bastard’s skin!’

“All right, then! Tomorrow it is!” Ren declared before adjourning the meeting for the day.


[PT#H]

Ryuji Man, there’s so much I wanna write on the calling card. It’s kinda tough figuring out what to say.

Shiho Are you sure you’re really capable of this!?

Ryuji Don’t worry, I got it. I even made a logo for us.

Ann   …a logo?

Ryuji Yup, you’ll see it tomorrow.

I bet it’s a hat. Ren

Ryuji …well it’s not JUST a hat!

Ann   Well that’s worrying…

Goro  We should all get plenty of rest tonight.

Goro  We cannot afford any mistakes when the time comes tomorrow.

Shiho Understood, senpai!

Ann   Got it, senpai.

Ryuji Yeah, going straight to sleep after this. Thanks, senpai.

Wow, Goro. You got everyone here wrapped around your finger. Ren

Goro  Well… I’m just doing what’s expected. I’ve asked them to drop the senpai if they wanted too in the past as well.

Ryuji No way! Senpai is senpai!

Ann   Yeah! Ren, why don’t you call him Goro-senpai?

Shiho I’ve been wondering that too.

…because we’re the best of friends! ♥ Ren

Goro  It’s because he outranks me, wouldn’t it be odd to call someone you consider your subordinate ‘senpai?’.

Shiho That makes sense.

I’m counting on everyone. Ren

Ann   Yup, I’m sure we can do this.

Goro  I will issue a final reminder to all of us: we cannot trust disgusting adults.

Goro  That’s why we’re pushed to taking this matter into our own hands.

Goro  We will succeed and shock everyone. There shall be no doubt.

[PT#H]


Monday, 18th of April 2016
Main Hall, Shuijin Academy
Morning

Morning at Shujin Academy was normal except for the fact that all the students swarmed the bulletin board. So not normal at all. The students present already began descending into idle chatter regarding it.

“A calling card…?”

“I heard it was already posted by the time everyone got here this morning.”

A redheaded girl who wore it in a ponytail wrapped in a red ribbon took one from the board and began reading out loud.

She immediately grabbed Ren’s attention ‘Huh, she’s that odd girl on the train...’

“Sir Suguru Kamoshida, the utter bastard of lust. We know how shitty you are, and that you put your twisted desires on students that can’t fight back. That’s why we have decided to steal away those desires and make you confess your sins. This will be done tomorrow, so we hope you will be ready. From, the Phantom Thieves of Hearts.”

The six thieves stood precariously distant from the bulletin board to the survey the reactions of the students. They also needed to know that Kamoshida had actually read the calling card to make sure his treasure would materialize. They didn’t, however, know what it said… until she read it out.

“…wow.” Ann was dumbfounded.

“Not bad, eh?” Ryuji on the other hand was quite proud of himself “I looked up a bunch of similar stuff online for reference.”

“Um… Yeah…” Shiho sighed

Ann’s disappointment was on display “I know what you wanted to say, but it sounded like an idiot trying to be an adult.”

“Your logo’s a little lacking, too.” Ren chipped in as he had forgotten exactly what Ryuji had drawn the first time around. He had never felt more thankful for Yusuke joining them.

Ryuji had gone red from embarrassment “Ok, y’know what? Th-That ain’t true!”

‘Oh Ryuji, I know its true’

The students near the bulletin board continued with their bickered gossip. It was easy to drown out but Ryuji needed some validation that he didn’t make a total failure so all the thieves listened in intently at the comments.

“Did Kamoshida-sensei do something wrong…?”

‘What didn’t he do wrong?’ Shiho thought whilst grinding her teeth.

“Does this mean the rumours are true?”

Ann shook her head ‘No… it’s so much worse.’

“Wait a sec… is someone going to take something from Mr. Kamoshida…?”

‘It’s a give and take.’ Goro lips formed into a smirk ‘We deliver retribution by taking their distorted desires.’

“What’s with this weird logo.”

‘S’not that weird…’ Ryuji couldn’t help but groan in embarrassment.

“And who’re these Phantom Thieves of Hearts people…?”

Morgana meowed from Ren’s bag “Soon they won’t forget that name…”

“…I hope they do something.” A familiar soft-spoken and fearful voice added.

‘Mishima?’

Ryuji puffed out his chest conspicuously “…it got everyone excited, so it's all good, yeah?”

The devil had finally arrived… Kamoshida “Who’s responsible for this…!?”

“…look at that. A predictable reaction for someone who knows what we mean by distorted desires.” Morgana wore a smug grin, or what would be smug on a cat.

Ryuji was still proud that his calling card did the job “I think it's hittin’ him pretty hard.”

“Did you do this!? Or was it you!?” Kamoshida began accusing the students near the bulletin board. They promptly scattered as his ire grew and his hands swung their accusatory fingers around. The man was expressing his frustration until he set his eyes on a familiar face.

“…was it you!?” Kamoshida glowered at a boy with short, spiky teal-hair and a plethora of injuries. He had set his eyes on Mishima.

“Wh-what? No!” the boy squirmed under Kamoshida’s intense pressure.

Ren ran forward and placed himself between Mishima and Kamoshida “Back. Off.”

“You’re… that transfer student” recognition shone on the teacher’s face “I bet you don’t even know who you’re defending, right?”

Ren could surmise what he meant “I know what he did, cut the bullshit and leave him alone.”

“I’m not sure you do…” Kamoshida peered behind the transfer student to see that Mishima wore a face of abject terror. ‘Ah, that punk Mishima will have to deal with him… if I’m lucky they’ll get rid of each other’ the teacher thought with a vicious smile.

Kamoshida stormed off “Whoever those phantom thieves are…” as reality momentarily distorted and revealed Shadow Kamoshida in his place.

“Come… steal it, if you can!”

Ren relaxed his arms and steadied his breathing. A single wrong move could’ve ended his probation, but he didn’t doubt that he did the right thing standing up for Mishima. Just as he had told Arsene about the woman that Shido assaulted before.

Mishima quivered at Ren’s sight and instantly averted his gaze “A-A-Amamiya-san… you k-knew?” his voice broke immediately as he spoke.

“I knew all along… but don’t let it bother you, kay?” Ren patted his shoulder “I don’t blame you at all…” the bespectacled boy reassured him that it was no trouble at all and oddly enough… Mishima believed him.

“Kamoshida will be taken care of soon enough.” and with that, Ren walked away towards classroom 2-D for homeroom.

‘What does he mean by that…’ Mishima pondered ‘And did he see that robed Kamoshida too…?’


♪ Life Will Change ♪

The team had entered Kamoshida’s palace and took the infiltration route straight through to the throne room. They were currently waiting inside the saferoom discussing their plans and contingencies with everyone. It wasn’t something that Ren thought was necessary given how the fight with Shadow Kamoshida played out in the future-past.

“Joker, what was that earlier with Mishima?”

Ren turned towards Ryuji, only registering his presence recently “Hm?”

“You jumped in between him and Kamoshida…” Ryuji looked odd being as focused as he was, if Ren was still spacing out he’d swear the boy was unblinking “That could’ve escalated, y’know?”

“I just did it…” Ren didn’t know how to explain ‘We were friends in a previous time and though we never got into a near scuffle with Kamoshida in the PE faculty this time, I still think he’s my friend.’

“Keep focused, everyone! We’re here…” Goro dragged the other two boys’ attention to the entrance to the throne room…

That had been left open “What the hell’s goin’ on here? The door’s just sitting open, and there aren’t any soldiers around…”

“This place is probably undermanned now that they all got assigned elsewhere.” Morgana concluded ‘I’d say poorly’ Ren observed his team continuing their way back to the treasure room.

“Either way, we win as long as we steal the Treasure! Let’s keep going!”

The pathway to the throne room

“Aww yeah!” Morgana drawled out the latter half of the sentence “The Treasure has appeared!”

“Man, it’s huge!” Ryuji wasn’t exaggerating. The amorphous light that was previously in the centre of the room had been replaced by a giant floating crown. It was at least twice as tall as most of the phantom thieves.

“So this is a manifestation of one’s distorted desires…?” Goro felt awestruck by the sight.

Morgana began acting oddly, more oddly than usual “Ahh… this shine brings tears to my eyes…”

“…it kinda pisses me off.” Shiho spat out, her anger in full display.

“Why is it so pretty…? Isn’t this Kamoshida’s desires?” Ann was bewildered by the gap between the disgusting desires of Kamoshida and the beauty of a crown.

“T-Treasure…” Morgana muttered incoherently.

“Uh, the cat’s actin’ awfully excited.” Ryuji stared at Morgana in uncharacteristic concern.

“What’s wrong? Is something…?” Shiho aired her worry before getting rudely interrupted.

“Meeeooow!” Morgana lept onto the giant crow and started licking it as well “Mrrrooow!”

“This is just as funny as the second time around…” Joker revelled at the humour of the sight whilst everyone else was struck dumbfounded.

“…meow, meow! Mewww!” Morgana continued being a total cat on the crown.

“Mona! We have a treasure to steal, correct?” it was Crow who had raised his voice and it seemingly worked, snapping himself out of his odd behavior.

“Oh, um, yeah… forgive me for displaying such an insolent sight in front of everyone…” The embarrassment exuded out of the not-cat in metaphorical waves.

“You were completely out of character too. What was that about?” Shiho bowed down to level with Morgana, genuinely concerned and quite confused at what had unfolded.

“I couldn’t stop it either… to think I’d be drawn to human desires this much…” Morgana lamented but quickly became excited at the potential prospect “Doesn’t that prove I’m human?”

“How should we know!?” Ryuji incredulously fired back.

Morgana embarrassedly stuttered an order “A-Anyway, you guys need to carry it!”

“Still, that was easier than I thought! I thought for sure there’d be some insane trap or something.” Ryuji gladly accepted it though, less complication the faster they could change Kamoshida’s heart.

“His palace will disappear if we take this back…?” Shiho sought reaffirmation of the apparent aftermath of their actions.

“And Kamoshida will change too.” Ann imagined how it would turn out.

“Good. Now’s our chance then.” Goro walked towards the crown.

The phantom thieves, except for Joker and Mona, surrounded the statue and lifted it “It’s heavy…!” and began carrying it out the Treasure Room. Joker snickered at their hunched posture as the waddled out with the crown.

“To think it’d go so well… I’ve even found five persona users in the process… One of them even more experienced in the metaverse than me!” Morgana hopped onto Ren’s shoulder as the boy used his leadership privileges to make the other four carry it.

“My judgment was correct. I made the right choice in following some as experienced at you!” Morgana smugly declared “Nyahaha!”

‘Good to have you back too, Morgana’ Ren


[Joker]

RANK UP! Magician Confidant has reached Rank 2.


The four were already getting somewhat tired at lifting the giant crown and their leader’s lack of encouraging words only made them agitated. Ren was too busy enjoying having more members in the very first Palace.

‘If things go as expected, this should be no problem…’

“Nnngh!” on cue, Kamoshida arrived and spiked the crown with a volleyball.

And commanded the Treasure to fly into his hands “I won’t let anyone take this!”

“This proves that I am the king of this castle—it is the core of this world!” Kamoshida’s shadow held it out and magically shrunk it to an ordinary size. One fit for a man’s head.

Shiho glowered at the sight of the man “That rat bastard…”

“Yo, pervert. Were you waitin’ to ambush us?” Ryuji taunted.

“I just made it easier to find you.” Kamoshida’s glowing yellow eyes scanned all of them, counting up the six members he had recalled from their previous escapade into the castle “I’ll dispose of you myself. Right here, right now.”

Ryuji’s mouth ran faster than anyone else’s mouth as he provoked the man even further “That’s our line you sexually-harassin’ D-bag!”

“What a selfish misunderstanding…” the castle’s ruler merely shook his head in dismay.

“How is it a misunderstanding!? You were doing things that you kept in secret from others!” Ann couldn’t stand hearing any of the bullshit from the man’s mouth.

“The people around me were the ones that kept it secret.”

“Adults who want to share in my accomplishments, students who have the drive to become winners…” the man’s monologue continued, seemingly pleased with his so-called accomplishments.

“They willingly protect me so that we all may profit from it.”

“…profit…?” Goro simmered in place at the drivel the PE teacher had spat out.

Kamoshida sneered at them all “Correct. Mr. Vice-President, there are too many imbeciles who don’t understand that!”

“Including naïve brats like you!” the demonic yellow eyes pinned themselves on Shiho.

“Shut up… shut up! SHUT UP!” Shiho was done with her mask coming undone as Boudicca came to view.

“I’ve had enough of your fucking bullshit!” the black-haired girl’s ire was felt by her teammates too as her power flared outwards “I do not need YOUR permission to decide how to live my life!”

“And no one else should either!”

“Drop the attitude, you mediocre peasant! There’s no wrong in using my gifts for my gain!” Kamoshida snarled arrogantly “I’m a cut above all other humans!”

“Above…? You mean beneath. You’re a goddamn demon obsessed with your disgusting desires!” Shiho spat out in rebuttal.

A low, basal chuckle escaped from Kamoshida as red energy began to surround and seemingly consume him “That’s right. I’m not like you…”

“I am a demon who rules this world!” the man who had once looked identical to their PE teacher transformed into a four-armed pink giant with a tongue longer than any limb he had. The demon seemingly had a different utensil in each had with one hand reserved to gripping a wine glass.

“I’m allowed to do whatever the hell I want!”

The phantom thieves held faces resembling various degrees of mortification through Ren and Goro were seemingly unphased. In fact, their leader looked quite delighted at the sight of Shadow Kamoshida.

‘Asmodeus…’

“This’ll be more satisfying than last time…”

An ear-piercing noise indicated the beginning of the battle as the thieves assembled themselves as planned. Their vanguard consisted of Crow, Skull, Cloud, and Panther as Joker waited in reserve. Mona already began sneaking on the balcony before Kamoshida had begun his demonic transformation.

“You goddamn, no-good, shitty brats! Haven’t you been taught not to point at people!? Huh!?”

“The treasure is on his head as Joker predicted” Shiho commented at the once enlarged crown sitting on the demon’s head.

“Commence combat until a prime opportunity to steal the crown presents itself.” Goro ordered everyone as the entered combat stances.

“Robin Hood! Kouga!” Multiple rays of light coalesced into a single somehow solid form that pierced through his head.

“Enable status modifiers! Now!” Grow barked out the command, quickly realizing Kamoshida had barely felt his opening strike.

“Tarunda!”/“Tarukaja!” Ann and Ryuji said respectively in quick succession to weaken Kamoshida whilst boosting the team.

“Boudicca! Cleave!” Shiho followed up at the end with a powerful yet seemingly shrugged off hit.

“Class is in session!” Kamoshida summoned a large number of volleyballs to pellet Ryuji. The blonde boy was able to take it in stride though the sounds it made on impact certainly made it seem painful.

“Keep up the offensive, wear him down till we find an opening!” Goro continued to give out orders.

“Captain Kidd!” electrical sparks descended on top Kamoshida.

“Carmen!” Fire burst forth from Carmen, racing towards the demon.

“Boudicca!” red tendrils ascended from below and ravaged him.

The coordinated assault from the thieves finally appeared to have bothered Kamoshida.

“Nnngh! I needed that healin’!” he stabbed his fork into the cup in front of him and… ate whatever that was inside and fully recuperated.

“Come at me, you pieces of shit! I ain’t lettin’ you sleep tonight!”

“He healed himself by consuming whatever is inside that cup!?” Shiho exclaimed.

“Just as Joker predicted.”

‘He will most likely use an external method of recovering damage. Once he reveals how he does it, focus all your attack on it!’

“Everyone remember Joker’s orders?” all three thieves nodded at Goro’s voice as they all set their eyes on the cup and began the next phase of their assault on it.

“Hey!” that struck a nerve with the Shadow Kamoshida “You don’t know what this is worth, so stop touching it! Don’t do it anymore, got it? I’ve warned you!”

Kamoshida takes a sip of the wine glass he had swung around jovially throughout the fight. Another of Ren’s predictions came to pass…

‘He’ll most likely empower himself throughout the fight, it should be obvious to tell when. Ann, make sure you keep Tarunda on him at all times.’

“Ann?” before Ryuji could even think of reminding her—

“Tarunda!” she applied it before turning and winking at Ryuji knowingly.

“Uh, good job?” the blonde boy lamely offered.

“Don’t get started on that now! Keep hitting the trophy!” both Goro and Shiho reminded the two.

“Captain Kidd! Let’s go!” Ryuji dove in with his persona in tow and lunged straight at the trophy knocking it over and shattering it completely.

“No way…” the demon whimpered and appeared distraught “This was from when I won the national…”

“All right!” the four active thieves jumped forward and raised all their guns at the beast in warning stance.

“You think you can get away with doing such a thing? Do you recognize who I am?” a childish tantrum was coming from the only real adult in the room.

“…I am Kamoshida! Don’t you get it!?”

“So what?” Shiho muttered loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Huh?” the demon was perplexed at their continued insolence “Like I keep saying! I am Kamoshida! I’m the king!”

“You look down on everyone… but you’re seriously lame right now.” Ryuji was unimpressed with how things had gone so far. Though it was all thanks to Joker’s foresight that they were able to breeze through everything so easily.

“We came all this way to steal that! Will you just give it up and hand it over?” Ann offered jokingly. She would still beat the shit out of him even if he did though.

“Silence! I won’t let the likes of you have this!” Kamoshida tapped his crown with a rod.

Crow nodded his head, already expecting this result “No room for negotiations it seems!”

The four busted out into an all-out attack against Kamoshida and managed to deliver significant damage to the demon. Yet, the former PE teacher now demonic entity still was up and raring to fight some more.

“I’m the king…! If I’m not, then who is!?”

“Joker was right, we will be here forever if we keep going with brute force.”

‘Beating him purely through power alone would be dangerous. That’s why from the very beginning, Mona will split off from us and position himself at a balcony for the opportune moment to snatch the trophy.’

“How dare you keep defying me… looks like I got to bring out the big guns!” whatever semblance of sanity the shadow had left was eroding “Mishima! Bring over you-know-what!”

A copy of Mishima appears with a volleyball in hand.

“Time for my killshot from when I was active and rockin’ it!” the mad declarations of the cornered Kamoshida reminded Goro of something “Killshot… as in I kill the lot of you!”

‘If he loses enough of his sanity through battle, he’ll begin unleashing a powerful attack that can devastate the four of you. Either guard when you expect it to come or stop the source of it altogether.’

“It seems like this might be our final hurdle. Everyone, focus on eliminating the cognitive copy of Mishima-san!”

“P-please don’t hurt me…” cognitive Mishima begged the thieves. “I d-don’t know w-w-what’s going…” tears welled up in the teal-haired boy’s eyes.

“C-cognitive… copy of Mishima?” Ren felt something off… this cognition felt familiar. Seemingly as if—

‘No… that should be impossible…!’ the leader of the Phantom Thieves quickly denied his thoughts before being quickly faced with reality ‘But we already somehow managed to get Shiho involved…’

‘I can’t risk it; I can feel the Moon within him!’

“Robin Hood!” Goro commanded a ranged assault from his persona only to get interrupted by someone no one on their team expected.

“Orpheus! Aragilao!” a fire bolted from his chosen persona and connected straight onto Goro’s back, knocking him over in surprise. ‘Orpheus… when did I get this one’s mask?’

“Joker!” the three unharmed phantom thieves turned away from their opponent and faced their leader, shock planted firmly on their faces. That was enough of a distraction for Kamoshida to take advantage of.

“The spike that seized the world!” with the thieves’ back turned from their foe, they received a devastating blow from a spike that exploded in its sheer intensity.

Ren turned away and ran after the supposed cognitive Mishima.

“How did you get here!?”

“Amamiya-kun…? Oh god, you’re actually mad at me, right? I’m so sorry… I didn’t know what to do!” he’s knees gave in and he prostrated himself before Ren.

“I wasn’t lying when I said I wasn’t mad at that.” the black-haired boy grabbed him by the arm and dragged Mishima up from the ground “I can’t beat around the bush! How did you get HERE! The castle!”

“The castle…? I opened my phone… and some weird guards brought me up here…” Mishima stammered, still fearful or the boy before him.

‘He has the MetaNav too!?’ he blinked at his own folly ‘Shit, I already should’ve known that given that he’s in here…’

‘But how… why!?’

“Joker! Little help here!” Ren turned to his team to see that Goro was the only one left standing after the stunt he pulled had managed to knock three of the thieves unconscious.

‘No…’

“Okay, Mishima. Stay out of sight, don’t run too far, and we’ll get out of this.” Ren’s commanding aura as Joker came out and Mishima couldn’t help but nod.

As he went to Goro’s side he left Mishima with some parting words “I don’t mind you leaking my criminal record… to be honest it let me find people who wanted to see me for me. I know you’re one of those people too.”

Mishima mouth was left agape at Ren’s declaration ‘He believes in me…?’

“What the hell was that?” the only remaining conscious member of the vanguard.

“He’s not a cognitive copy… that’s the real Mishima.” Joker finally backed up Goro, intercepting an incoming volleyball in the process.

“You’re… not joking.” Goro’s eyes widened as he turned away shamefully, realizing he was at the cusp of murdering someone… that probably didn’t deserve it.

“I wouldn’t have hit you from behind if I was.” Ren didn’t turn his gaze away from the demonic Kamoshida “Mona should be ready to steal it a few minutes…”

“Are we going to last that long?”

“We’ll have too…” Joker’s cocksure smirk radiated infectious confidence though whether that was enough to weather the incoming assault was to be seen.

Mishima turned away helplessly as the two boys, one of which was Amamiya-kun, were repeatedly throttled by what he began to realize was Kamoshida. The mannerisms and speech were all that familiar PE teacher that he despised yet had surrendered to long ago.

‘Will you end things like this? Letting the one person who believed in you even when they had every reason to hate you?’ a voice echoed in Mishima’s head. He recognized it as his voice but it was distinctly different from his own.

‘No… but, what can I do?’ he wallowed in self-pity as he had done before.

‘Act on your animosity.’ those words lit a fire as he no longer averted his eyes from the fighting duo. They stood their ground against insurmountable odds. The two had something he had long desired and wished to borrow if only for a single moment. Courage.

“You have finally grown tired of being a passerby to your own life.”

“Then let us cut the strings and let loose our hatred.”

“You shall no longer be a mere marionette for those you despise!”

“We have come to an understanding at last…”

“I am thou, thou art I…”

“Swear to never be beholden to injustice evermore…”

“Peer through the veil cast upon reality and tear it apart!”

“Him too!?”

A vertical half-mask with a smoky motif appeared over the right side of his appeared and he instinctively tore it off. Blood dripped from his face as an azure pillar of flame consumed him and he disappeared along with it.

“Uhm, hello? Does this work…?” a voice from nowhere and everywhere reached Ren and Goro.

“Mishima?” Ren asked though he already expected he was right.

“Yeah, it's me… I’m not sure how but I think I can help!” his voice was unusually confident, which was a good sign given the prior history in the future-past.

“Do what you need to do!” it was Goro who gave the command as he dodged another rally from the demonic Kamoshida.

“Aladdin!” Mishima called forth his persona who revealed itself alongside Mishima who had reappeared.

Mishima's metaverse outfit consisted of a silver jacket with no undershirt which can leave his torso exposed, navy blue trousers that stop midway his lower leg, black running shoes, and a pair of dark forest green gloves.

Aladdin appeared as an almost amorphous congregation of gases which took the shape of a man from the waist up as below his waist revealed a thick, wispy tail. Aladdin's appearance conveyed a muscular man with a large upper torso and what appeared to be a dark forest green waistcoat that had been torn due to its small size. Their face was featureless as no eyes or mouth to betray a sense of normalcy sat on it.

The newly acquainted persona delivered a powerful debilitation debuff that severely weakened Kamoshida. Though before the two could thank Mishima for his aid, he already disappeared from their sight.

“I’m still here…” Mishima reminded them from nowhere.

“This is gonna sound weird, but I can see you guys, even what looks like a cat…?” the teal haired boy sounded like he going through information overload at the moment.

“But we can’t see you…” Goro stated the obvious, oddly enough.

“Anyway, from my analysis it seems like this battle is far from over.” Mishima was able to see details from his unknown vantage point. ‘Seems like he has a support type Persona like Futaba.’

Ren didn’t dwell on that thought for too long “Don’t worry about that, can you tell me where the cat is.”

“Yea—It’s… wait it just jumped!”

“A bit late there Mona!” Ren called the not-cat out.

“Sorry, Joker!” said ‘cat’ apologized whilst darting through the air.

Morgana, who had been absent during the whole ordeal, darted through the air and knocked off Kamoshida’s crown. “I’ll get everyone else up, you go finish off Kamoshida!”

“Nooo! My… my precious…!” Shadow Kamoshida had entered a state of near despair.

The two wild cards smirked as the began unloading all their pent up anger from having to duck, weave and eat a few hits earlier when they had to deal with Kamoshida as a duo. Morgana, with the use of medicine purchased from Takemi, was able to resuscitate the unconscious members of to the side-lines.

“What… just happened?” Ann awoke feeling sore in too many places.

Ryuji got on his feet immediately only to nearly buck over in pain “God that hurt like hell!”

“Uh… now I know how Mishima-kun feels.” Shiho lamented how Mishima was able to take spike after spike from Kamoshida after all this time.

“What was that Suzui?” a disembodied voice spoke to her.

“Eeep!” she jumped “Who was that?”

“It’s me, Mishima!” the boy offered his hand only to realize that she had no idea where he was. The teal-haired boy blushed in embarrassment though luckily for him, no one could see it.

“Everyone, I know it’s fun introducing yourselves… but can we just take down this bastard first!” Ren called to his teammates to get back to the fight.

“Kamoshida’s really shaken up after we took the crown!” Morgana added, pointing out that the demonic Kamoshida had given up.

“Take this bastard down, everyone!”


The crown laid right in front of the thieves after the demise of Asmodeus. As they were going to retrieve it, Kamoshida who had reverted to his human-like form, snatched it away at the last second. The last shadow dashed away though he was firmly trapped in with seven thieves and no way of escape.

“What’s wrong? Not running away?” Ann mocked the terrified man “Why don’t you run…?”

“Aren’t you a great athlete?” Ryuji teased viciously as he reminded the cruel teacher’s crime against his leg.

“It’s always been like this… all those goddamn hyenas forcing their expectations on me…!” Kamoshida began pointing fingers at everyone but himself “I’m doing this all for them! What’ wrong with demanding a reward for that!?”

“Is that what you call an excuse…?” Mishima sneered at the pretentious yet defeated man.

“We’ll do something about that distorted heart of yours.” Shiho approached the pathetic man, each step growing louder than the last. She drew her titanic sword and readied to swing it at the man… and let go. Her blade was let loose, missing by a foot but a terrifying foot for Kamoshida’s Shadow.

Shiho mouthed silently “I won’t miss next time”

“Let’s take the treasure…” she turned to the thieves behind her.

“No, please wait! I beg of you… just forgive meee!” Kamoshida had lost all pretence of dignity and grovelled on the ground.

“Shut up! I bet everyone told you the same… I know I did…” Shiho’s voice grew weak towards the end.

“…me too…” Mishima added.

“But you… you took everything from us!” the two volleyball players managed to say in unison.

“I accept defeat… you want this? Take it.” on his knees, he surrenders his crown to the thieves. Rolling it to their feet.

“Go ahead and finish me off…” Kamoshida had finally admitted defeat “You do that… and my real self will go down too…”

“You have that right since you’ve won…”

“I’ve lost.”

“You’re through when you lose…”

“What am I—what am I supposed to do now…?”

“Atone for your sins.” Joker felt no reason to tell him something else.

“All right… I will leave now and return to my real self…” the shadow’s form began disappearing into bright light.

“Oh, so that’s how you do it… could never figure it out myself.” another voice jumped in…

“Hmph, what a waste of time.” another seemingly familiar voice added their opinions on the table.

“Who are y—”

‘What…!?’

Before them stood two people that looked to familiar… it was Ren and Goro. Except Ren and Goro also stood next to the Phantom Thieves themselves.

“D-dude, they’re you two.” Ryuji swung his head back and forth

“Don’t insult me with that poor imitation.” the fake Goro took deep offense to the blonde boy’s assessment.

“I dunno, I think mine looks pretty dapper!” the fake Ren gave his counterpart a compliment and an accompanying wink.

“Joker… Crow? What’s going on?” Morgana fearfully inquired, unsure if he wanted the answer.

“I don’t know.” Ren was at a loss. ‘Is this another change I’m unaware of…’

“Well, we were just here to see how you guys do the whole ‘changing hearts’ thing.” fake Ren elaborated honestly. Or so it seemed.

“It was a disappointment.” fake Goro shook his head.

“Don’t be so dour, they put on an entertaining show. The drama had me on the edge of my seat!” the fake Ren gave the Phantom Thieves applause for their supposed performance.

“We’ll be off now… Moriarity!” the fake Ren called out and his mask disappeared for a moment only for it to reform quickly after.

“Sheriff!” the fake Goro did the same… to the same result.

‘Was that…’ at the moment where the two seemingly attempted to summoning their Persona, Ren was able to take a good look at their eyes. Their doppelgangers seemingly had their sclera coloured black.

“Oh yeah… collapsing unconscious…” fake Ren mumbled, realizing their foolishness for even attempting to rip off their masks.

“Well, see you later, pretty boy!” fake Ren gave a wink at his counterpart before grabbing the fake Goro and making their getaway.

“We can worry about them later, for now, we need to get out!”


Unknown

“Mitsuru, we have confirmed it. Aigis has lost her ability to summon Orpheus… and her abilities as a wild card as well.” a long silence followed afterward as the troubling news had come.

“Contact Ken Amada… he’s the only inconspicuous foot we can put in Tokyo right now.” the redhead identified as Mitsuru gave the order impassively.

“Minako-san will not be pleased about this…” whether the girl was referring to Aigis’s loss of abilities or Ken’s impending involvement was left in the air.


Aladdin

Arcana: Moon

Level:10

Skills: Analysis

Chapter Text

Monday, 18th of April 2016
Outside Shujin Academy, Aoyama Itchome
After School

The seven of them unceremoniously crashed out of the metaverse in the same alleyway that was first used to enter the castle.

“That was awful” Ann voiced all the thieves’ grievances for them. Everyone was in various states of dishevelment, whether they fell face-first on the ground or has crash-landed on their feet. It only Morgana maintained some grace when exiting the palace, with him being a cat and everything.

“W-What j-j-just happened?” they all turned to the newcomer’s as he spoke. Mishima had seemingly landed headfirst onto the ground and was extremely disoriented. By the mere sound of his voice.

“How did Mishima-kun end up following us into the Metaverse?” Shiho inquired earnestly as she approached the boy to help him up.

“Same way as us, MetaNav on his phone.”

Ryuji got on his feet after stumbling over his injured leg for a moment “For real!? How does that thing even appear anyway?”

“I’d like to know too…” Mishima mumbled out as he was helped up by Shiho.

“I’m at a loss, I can’t even ask long-nose…” Ren lamented on how we couldn’t, or more accurately, wasn’t allowed to speak with Igor anymore.

“Long-nose?” his team, however, just looked at him dumbfounded.

“Uh… Nevermind…” Ren scratched the back of his head. He wasn’t in any position to elaborate on what the Velvet Room was any further.

“Ok… what do we do about Mishima though?” Ann raised her question alongside herself.

“Uhm, I’m sorry!”

“Wha’?” confusion sat on Ryuji’s face at the sight of the bowing Mishima.

“I’d like to properly apologize to everyone. I was the reason why you all got knocked unconscious after all.” Mishima profusely apologized while bowing over and over again to each one of the thieves.

“That doesn’t bother us. We’d rather be knocked unconscious than be murderers.” everyone nodded in agreement... though some were more enthusiastic than others.

Ren elbowed Goro which made him yelp out “Y-yeah!”

“Amamiya-san! I’d like to apologize again for leaking your record.” the teal haired boy let out what had been eating at him

“Dude, you can st—” Ryuji was about to berate him for his apologetic nature before deciding something else was more pressing “You did what!”

“Uhm, guys…” Ren attempted to catch their attention to no avail.

“Do you know how much trouble he went through because of that!” Ann joined in Ryuji’s obvious displeasure.

Goro’s eyes lost their light as he spoke in a low tone “So, it was your fault then…”

“Really guys… it’s not a big deal…” Ren tried again only to be cut off by his own team.

“No! It’s a very big deal!” Ryuji shouted in defence of their leader… by raising his voice against their leader.

Their bespectacled leader could help but raise his own voice “He’s one of us now though!”

“No, he is not!” Ann declared and by the look of the other thieves, they agreed with her.

Ren was shocked speechless “…what?”

“Mishima is not welcome.” Goro clarified.

“It’s wasn’t his choice! He’s as much of a victim of Kamoshida as you are!” Ren couldn’t help but defend the boy that had come to believe in the thieves’ innocence even when no-one else in Shujin had.

Shiho’s eyes softened at the realization that Mishima… might’ve not been so different from her.

“I did not do Kamoshida’s legwork for him!” Ryuji did not share her sentiment and made it known “In fact, he BROKE my leg!”

“You knew what you were leading Shiho when you called her to Kamoshida, didn’t you!?” Ann scowled as fiery rage lit up her eyes. In her eyes, the teal-haired boy was at least complicit in not somehow responsible for her best friend's anguish at the hands of the PE teacher.

“N-no! I had no idea…” Mishima denied mildly. He would’ve denied harder but the intimidation that Ryuji and Ann exuded together was terrifying for him. Goro’s directed silence at him was also terrifying in a completely different manner but resulted in the same fear.

“Leave!” Ren had enough of the Phantom Thieves for one day.

The thieves stepped back, their mouths agape at their leader “Ren?”

He gave all of them a piercing glare “Did. I. Stutter?”

Ann and Shiho were the first to acquiesce and leave and while the blonde girl didn’t bother sparing a glance at their leader, Shiho gave an understanding nod at both Ren and Mishima. Ryuji almost began to protest if not for Goro to start dragging the blonde boy away from the alleyway. The four other thieves had left leaving only Morgana and Ren alone with Mishima.

“Morgana.” Ren lost the edge in his voice “Stay by my bag.”

“Yes, Joker!” the not-cat was still somewhat fearful. Morgana ran off outside the alleyway to leave the two alone.

“Sorry about this, Mishima.” Joker released an exasperated sigh “I’m sure they’ll come around… eventually?”

“I d-don’t mind… this was kinda what I expected from you so I’m not too shocked.” Mishima fidgeted but was noticeably calmer when the thieves were there. He, however, was still consumed by shame and was unable to face the person he had greatly wronged since he arrived at Shujin Academy.

“No, I will make them come around.” The teal-haired boy lifted his head at Ren’s words. The belief Ren held in his words easily spilled into Mishima as well.

‘Maybe… that can happen.’ the newest persona user wanted to believe it too.

“I’ll still try to help you as best as I can!” Mishima didn’t care whether the thieves would approve of him anymore. He’d do his best regardless “I swear I’ll make it up to you!”

“I know you will.”


[Joker]

I am thou, thou art I
Thou hast acquired a new vow.

It shall become the wings of rebellion
that breaketh thy chains of captivity.

With the birth of the Moon Persona,
I have obtained the winds of blessing that
shall lead to freedom and new power…


Ren’s trip back home was a silent affair as Morgana had not spoken a single word since he had retrieved him. The pair had just arrived back at LeBlanc and practically collapsed on his bed after an exhausting day trip into the Metaverse which had included more than he expected. The berspectacled boy left both his bag and Morgana on the couch as he sat and laid down on the bed.

“I’m… ‘orry.” The small creature mumbled from the couch.

Ren failed to catch what his small feline partner had said “Morgana?”

“Sorry…” Morgana repeated much cleared this time.

“At least come out of the bag if you’re going to apologize.” Ren goaded him out of the bag softly.

Morgana complied with the bespectacled boy’s request and repeated once more “I’m sorry…”

“Hm? For what?” Ren wanted to know where Morgana’s guilt truly welled from.

“I-I didn’t help you when everyone else was ganging up on you…”

Ren nodded after the not-cat’s confession “Ah, well I’m not the one you should be apologizing to then.” though he knew that guilt was misplaced.

“Huh? What do you mean?” Morgana was now confused, not expecting his apology to take this turn.

“Mishima deserves an apology for what everyone laid onto him.” Ren donned a serious face. He didn’t want to hear any poor quip from anyone about Mishima any longer.

“He sounded like a pretty bad person though… he’s the one who ruined your school life wasn’t he?” Morgana remembered Ryuji and Ann’s verbal assault on the boy.

“Without him, there wouldn’t be any rumours…”

“That is certainly true, but I don’t think ill of him for doing it.” Ren reiterated what he said at the earlier gathering.

‘And it looked like Shiho didn’t either…’

“And… he will be joining the Phantom Thieves.” he declared.

“What!?”

“Still with this? Fine…” Ren shook his head, he was getting quite tired of his team’s poor attitude “Think of it like this, do you think it's okay for us to leave him alone? To let him figure the Metaverse by himself?”

“No!” Morgana’s feline eyes grew wide at the implication “That would be too dangerous.”

“Glad we came to an understanding.” he petted Morgana on the head to which the not-cat indignantly protested but ended up purring to it anyway. Ren smiled momentarily before steeling himself to check the group chat.


[PT#H]

Ryuji Ren was totally terrifying today!

Ryuji Didn’t think he could pull that off.

Ann   Why was he so up for Mishima though, didn’t he ruin his rep?

Shiho I don’t think we can blame Mishima-kun just like that.

Goro  I disagree. This is someone who leaked our leader’s false criminal record.

I’d appreciate it if everyone didn’t talk as if I can’t see this. Ren

On the matter with Mishima, I’ve discussed it with Morgana. Ren

He will be joining the team. Ren

Ryuji  What!? No way!

Ann   I am not going on a team with someone like him!

Goro  I have to question your judgment, Ren.

Goro  Why let someone like him into this closely trusted circle.

Shiho, do you have anything to add? Ren

Shiho I agree with Ren.

Shiho I don’t think Mishima is as bad as everyone else here seems to believe.

Ann   Shiho! He practically handed you over to Kamoshida!

Ann   How can you be on his side!

Shiho He didn’t! He was just as much of a victim as me…

Ann   Shiho…

Goro  Very well, besides the issue of his participation with Kamoshida’s crimes…

Goro  There is the issue of his trustworthiness.

Goro  He is the one who leaked our leader’s criminal record to the entire school.

Goro  I cannot believe somewhat of that nature can be trusted with an operation like the Phantom Thieves.

Fair point. Ren

Counterpoint, Ryuji. Ren

Ryuji  Huh?

Goro  I can certainly see your point…

Goro  Very well, I will have no more complaints regarding Mishima. I will trust your judgment.

Ryuji  What point? I don’t get it.

Ann   Probably best that you don’t.

Shiho I think they’re saying you can’t keep a secret either Ryuji-kun.

Ryuji  Hey! What the hell guys!

Finally, regarding Mishima, you will all apologize to him. Ren

Ann   Alright… I still don’t like this…

Shiho Ann…

Ann   Fine, I’ll do it!

Shiho I’ll go with you then!

Ryuji  Fine…

Goro  Very well. I will offer my apologies to Mishima-kun as well.

Goro  We wouldn’t a new member feeling isolated from the group after all.

Thank you. Ren

The next matter is those people we saw after we stole the treasure. Ren

Ryuji  Yo, those guys totally looked like you two! It freaked me out!

Ryuji  Are you two sure you’ve never met them before?

Goro  I am certain.

Ann   They weren’t entirely similar to Ren and Goro-senpai though.

Ann   Their eyes… their irises were the same color as yours

Shiho The whites in their eyes were entirely black.

Ryuji Shit, didn’t notice but that sounds terrifying.

Goro  What they said bothered me as well.

Goro  They were observing us to ‘see how we change people’s hearts’.

Goro  However this was the first time we had done it and I’m sure most brushed off our calling cards as menial threats.

They knew we were coming before we sent the calling card. Ren

Or they were there when the cards were sent. Ren

And somehow deduced that we would be using the Metaverse. Ren

Ryuji  I’m sure that no one saw me put them up!

Ryuji  Even then, wouldn’t someone notice a guy that looks like our Student Council VP but with black in his eyes instead of white?

Shiho Do you think, they’re the ones responsible for the mental shutdowns?

Goro  That is a possibility, however…

Goro  This type of speculation is currently pointless though as we don’t even have a location to pinpoint nor a name to inspect.

Agreed. Ren

The best we can do now is to continue normally. Ren

And await Kamoshida’s change of heart. Ren

Ryuji  Yeah! I can’t wait for that bastard to get what’s coming to him.

Ann   How long do we have to wait?

That’s variable, though it should be within two weeks. Ren

How people react to suddenly regaining their… Ren

‘conscience’ is too erratic to predict. Ren

Shiho I’m looking forward to it.

Goro  So am I, however, it is getting quite late now so I must be off.

Indeed, I’ll see everyone tomorrow. Ren

[PT#H]


Tuesday, 19th of April 2016
Outside the Library, Shujin Academy
Afternoon

There was nothing of note that Ren had learned at school today other than being informed by Kawakami-sensei that PE had been replaced by study hall as well as rumours that Kamoshida had placed himself under suspension.

‘Things seem to be unfolding similarly to last time.’

“Ah, Ren!” Goro came into view alongside a familiar short-haired brunette.

The fellow and potential future Phantom Thieves approached him with haste as he had exited the library. The bespectacled boy just recently borrowed a book entitled ‘The Queen of Iceni’. He had meant to borrow this before though he had gotten interrupted by Haru and Goro earlier.

“So, you’re Amamiya-san.” Makoto eyed him analytically which was something Ren had come to expect from ‘Queen’ of the thieves.

“Hello, Niijima-senpai!” Ren gave a polite greeting “How may I help you?”

“Hm?” Makoto’s eyes darted to Goro and Ren a few times “Did you warn him beforehand, Goro?”

“I did no such thing.” Goro’s smile was unnerving “I’m just as interested in his reaction as you are.”

Makoto caught what she was doing in front of a third-party “Ah, apologies for talking amongst ourselves Amamiya-san!”

She straightened herself out and offered “We were wondering if you’d be interested in joining the Student Council?”

“W-what?” Ren sputtered out a pathetic reply. ‘Me!? On the student council?’

Ren eyed the brown-haired boy cautiously as he couldn’t help but feel this was Goro’s doing ‘What the hell did you say to her!?’ unfortunately for him, Goro was not psychic.

Or maybe he was given his growing grin.

“I-I, you’ve heard of the rumours regarding me? Right?” Ren attempted to squirm of whatever this recruitment offer was.

“Yes, Goro has assured me that they are nothing but slanderous lies.”

“Well, thanks… Goro.” Ren practically hissed out the boy’s name.

“Though even if it isn’t true…” Ren knew how powerful perception truly was “I’m still the subject of rumours that would be unfavourable to the student council.”

“I believe this arrangement would be beneficial as a perceived delinquent.” She smiled knowingly. I was as if they’d rehearsed exactly how to attempt to recruit Ren.

“The perceived rumour of you being a criminal and being part of the student council would become incorrigible for most. I believe they would have to choose between the unfounded rumours or the reality of you being on the student council.”

Ren could see how she’d come to believe it “That is… certainly an interesting idea.” he was contemplating if it would work as well.

That left one thing bothering the black-haired boy “But, this all sounds a bit too good for me. You can’t just be doing this to help me.”

“Of course not, you’d have to fulfil your duties as a member of the student council.” Makoto’s voice said it all ‘Wasn’t that obvious?’

“It’s only been two people for over a year now.” Goro finally hopped in the conversation again to drop a pretty big deal.

“Wait!” Ren’s mouth went wide at the new information “You two have been handling it all by yourselves!?”

What else did Goro change since he was here “…fine.” Ren’s apprehension quickly turned to pity as a two-person student council sounded like a daunting if not impossible task.

Makoto shone at the bespectacled boy’s affirmation “Good, Ama—”

“No. If I’m joining, you’re going to have to call me Ren.”

“Alright, call me Makoto then.”


[Joker]

I am thou, thou art I
Thou hast acquired a new vow,

It shall become the wings of rebellion
that breaketh thy chains of captivity,

With the birth of the Priestess Persona,
I have obtained the winds of blessing that
shall lead to freedom and new power…


Wednesday, 20th of April 2016
Student Council Room, Shujin Academy
Afternoon

Makoto and Goro had assigned the respected boy the role of Student Council Secretary and just handed him a pile of documents. Ren could’ve sworn this was some form of literary torture, having to sift through so many documents in the allotted time he’d have after school.

“Ah, Senpai! Ren-kun!” a familiar voice had been surprised after opening the door “Is Niijima-senpai not in?”

“Shiho-san?” Goro identified the girl for both of them “No, she’s currently in a meeting with the Principle Kobayakawa.”

“Oh, alright…” Shiho meekly entered the student council room.

“Is there something you need from her? We can relay it if you want.” Goro offered.

“No… it's not that.” The black-haired girl shook her head.

“I’m somewhat glad that she isn’t here.” she turned up and both Ren and Goro realized this was Phantom Thief business “I can talk about Kamoshida freely then…”

“Go on…” Ren gave her the stage.

“With Kamoshida gone… what will happen to the volleyball team?” her voice quivered with uncertainty.

She rose her hands and waved them defensively “Don’t get me wrong… I’m very happy that he’s gone!”

“But, even after everything… I still love playing volleyball!”

“Yet… I can’t touch the ball anymore without being reminded of what he did…” Shiho let out the tears she had been holding back all this time. The feeling of uncertainty and the conflicting torrent of despising something that was once adored spilled forth. She didn’t understand why but she felt the two who saved her in the castle could help her with hurdle as well.

“W-what do I do?”

“We can’t tell you how to live your life.” Goro spoke bluntly.

“Is that not what you said to Kamoshida’s Shadow?” Ren prodded her, trying to remind her of her own wise words in their final confrontation with Kamoshida.

Her face shone with realization as she remembered exactly what she had told Kamoshida’s Shadow “Yes!”


[Joker & Crow]

RANK UP! Strength Confidant has reached Rank 2.


“We can’t help you find the answer to how to move forward…”

“However, we can help you keep all your choices open.”

“Does that mean…?”

Goro turned to Ren and saw a burning determination in his eyes and immediately knew what had to be done “Keeping the volleyball club open after Kamoshida will be troublesome given what his reputation will become.”

“It should be within our abilities.” Goro finished, certainty lacing his voice.

“Thank you, thank you! Thank you!” Shiho tackled both into a hug simultaneously, having one arm wrapped around each of them. Ren would’ve thought it was sweet bonding gesture if she hadn’t scattered all his secretary work across the desk and floor by doing it.


Thursday, 21st of April 2016
???
???

'Hey, Ren?’

‘Hello voice in my head, haven’t heard from you in a while.’

‘Well about that…’

‘Oh, this suspense might kill me.’

‘Shut up… I might’ve told someone a bit too much about my—our situation.’

‘Wait. You told someone…?’

‘That is the case, yes.’

‘How can you even talk to people!? I don’t even know how you talk to me!?’

‘That’s a story for another time.’

‘Of course, of course it is!’

‘You're loud…!’

‘Who? Who found out.’

‘Someone I know from when I was still alive…’

‘Someone left behind…’

‘Yeah…’

‘Minako.’

‘Excuse me?’

‘That’s her name, Minako. I thought I should let you know, just in case.’

‘Okay… what does she know?’

‘That I’m not wholly dead… and that I—we are in Tokyo.’

‘You said what!?’

‘I’m sorry! I can’t hide things from her!’

‘Great, next thing you’ll tell me is they know we go to Shujin.’

‘Um…’

‘Are you for real!?’

‘I didn’t say your name!’

‘And thank whatever god for that!’

‘It’s not bad… they’re my friends. They’ll help you before hurting any of your friends.’

‘Friends? You told me something when I signed that contract.’

‘Yes?’

‘Are these new faces that we met in the palace… friends too?’

‘They aren’t exactly new faces, are they?’

‘Messiah…’

‘Alright, most likely not.’

‘Damn. Why the hell do they have the same face as me and Goro?’

‘…’

‘This is getting out of hand, how much of the past has changed?’

‘I can tell you that they are called Echoes.’

‘Echoes?’

‘Something I got from that Igor.’

‘Long-nose?’

‘Echoes are… as that Igor put it your reflection from the outside.’

‘If Shadows are one’s inner true self… then Echoes come from outside through another's perception of a person.’

‘But the Phantom Thieves haven’t even gotten the spotlight… outside of Shujin, no one even know who we are or what we do!’

‘True… however, these Echoes do exist and by their mannerisms, have existed for far longer than you have been awakened.’

‘That’s… what does that even mean?’

‘I don’t know’

No exchange followed between the two disembodied voices as Ren drifted into another dreamless sleep.


[Joker]

RANK UP! Universe Confidant has reached Rank 4.


Friday, 22nd of April 2016
Student Council Room, Shujin Academy
Morning

Ren was called out from the PA system by the Principal himself for student council duties. His classmates were now circulating two conflicting rumours about him. The older rumours regarding his criminal record still floated about but another one where he was an intelligent and diligent student that was recruited into the small student council came to oppose it.

Everyone in Shujin respected the student council body and the work they had achieved as a two-person unit. It was rumoured that the council itself was particularly stringent when it came to new applications and immediately turned down newcomers that weren’t up to their standards. Ren wondered the validity of the rumours on his way to the student council room.

“Ah Ren, you’re here.” Makoto greeted him with a smile.

“Good morning to you too, Ms. President.” his cheeky comment got him a well-deserved stinkeye from said President “Uh… Makoto!”

He composed himself before continuing “What am I here for?”

“We have a new transfer student coming in this afternoon and we’ve decided that you’ll be responsible for introducing him around the campus.”

“A new transfer…? After me…?” Ren whispered to himself as he felt this was another deviation ‘I don’t remember this…’

“He isn’t officially starting until the 25th, though he requested to see the campus before his arrival. He’s a third-year by the name of Ken Amada.” Makoto did not catch his muttering and continued explaining.

‘Ken!?’ the voice Ren had grown quite accustomed to piped up outside his dreams again.

“Messiah!?” Ren couldn’t help but be audibly surprised.

Makoto raised a single brow at their new secretary “Excuse me?”

“Oh sorry, someone—thing just came into my head there for a moment.” Ren explained away the best he could, still unsteady from Messiah’s sudden outburst.

She was not wholly convinced with the explanation “Are you alright? I can take over for it if necessary.”

“No… I’m okay, I’ll handle Amada-san.” Makoto still eyed him with worry but eventually relented.

“Very well. Do your best.”


Ren was excused from his classes for the rest of the day after being assigned the task and he was left waiting at the school’s entrance.

“What was that about earlier, Messiah?” he inquired out loud, though this time he made sure no one was around to make him seem like he was insane.

‘Ken… I know him.’

‘Can’t speak too much when you’re awake…’

‘Don’t tell him about me or the thieves.’

‘Find out why he’s here first…’

‘Please… be kind to him…’

Messiah didn’t add anything after that as if confirming his difficulty of speaking to a wide-awake Ren. He didn’t tell him anything that would qualify as new information as he didn’t exactly intend of telling people he had a voice living inside his head or introducing himself as a Phantom Thief to anyone. If anything, that was Ryuji’s job.

Unfortunately for Ren, listening in to Messiah’s requests had left him completely distracted.

“Hello? Are you supposed to be my guide?” A lost-looking older boy with styled brown hair dressed in the standard Shujin Academy uniform approached. If Ren wasn’t already very well acquainted with Goro, he would’ve mistaken this as his sibling. The brown-haired boy tugged uncomfortably at the collar of his dress shirt awaiting a response.

Ren would’ve jumped if he was any less prepared “Uh, yes I am! You’re Ken Amada, right?”

Amada-san nodded and awaited the bespectacled boy’s introduction “I’m a second-year and the newly minted student council secretary, Ren Amamiya.”

“Nice to meet you Amamiya-san.”

“Likewise… Amada-senpai.”

The two wandered somewhat aimlessly around the school, with Ren introducing new places as it came up. It only dawned to him that it was odd that he was selected to guide a transfer student when he had been at the school for less than a month. The high school rumour mill was impossible to ignore, though he was thankful for Makoto’s invitation to the student council as it had indeed stifled some of the rumours.

“Everyone seems to like talking about you…” Amada pointed out as the went up a flight of stairs towards the third floor.

Ren rolled his eyes “I wouldn't say they like it… more so they can’t help themselves.”

“Oh? What kind of reputation do you have?”

“Apparently, I killed someone… or something like that I wasn’t keeping up with how far they’ve gone by now.”

Instead of the expected mortification that Ren expected, Ken smiled knowingly “The high school rumour mill truly is a wild beast isn’t it?”

“Don’t I know it.” Ren chuckled softly, quietly happy that Messiah’s friend didn’t immediately dissociate with him after the rumours.

The pair had reached the final destination for the tour, the student council room. As it was already nearing the end of the school period, students had already begun filtering out of their classrooms resulting in a very crowded hallway. In the mess, however, he spotted a ponytailed redheaded girl approaching both of them.

“Ah, Amamiya-senpai, Akechi-senpai! Hello!”

“Akechi…?” Ken mumbled it uncomfortably under his breath.

Ren quickly caught on to his guest’s discomfort and jumped in “Ah, this isn’t Akechi… he’s a new transfer student.”

Following after Ren’s timely prompt, Ken introduced himself “Ken Amada, new third-year.”

“Like you, Amamiya-senpai?” Ren nodded once at the question.

“He already has it pretty good if a cute kohai already mistook him as Akechi-senpai” Ren quickly teased the girl. Though he did not register the words as they left his mouth.

The redheaded girl pouted “It’s not like that senpai! Amada-senpai just looked so much like Akechi-senpai!”

“It’s alright—” Ren froze as pink crept up his cheeks. He had just realized he had no idea what the girl’s name even after he had teased her too.

“Hm… Oh! I haven’t introduced myself! I’m Kasumi Yoshizawa, first-year!” as she finished introducing herself, her phone rang and was startled by the message.

“I’m sorry, I have to be off to practice now! Good luck at Shujin, Amada-senpai! Congratulations on making the student council, Amamiya-senpai!”

After Kasumi dashed downstairs and out of sight and sound, Ken turned to his guide and inquired with one word “Akechi?”

“Yeah, I almost mistook you for him at the gate.” Ren freely admitted. The resemblance was uncanny if one didn’t know any better.

“Is that so…?”

“Never heard of him?” Ren asked with his brow raised. Akechi was pretty popular, but not once did he hear anyone refer to him as the Detective Prince. Did he abandon that part of his life in the future-past too?

“No… should I?” Ken tilted his head as he felt out of the loop.

“Nah, it’s a good thing” Ren gave a genuine laugh in between his words “I don’t think I can handle his ego getting any more inflated.”

Saturday, 23rd of April 2016
Shujin Academy Gates, Aoyama Itchome
After School

Waiting for Kamoshida’s confession was almost as painful as it was last time. Almost, given that Ren was certain it would work given experience so that sliced the anxiety in half. It all became an excruciatingly boring and slow waiting game. Today became quite unfortunate as an unforeseen yet heavy downpour descended at the end of class.

‘Did I forget my umbrella?’

Morgana somehow sensed his train of thought “I thought such a thing would happen…”

“I packed a folding umbrella just in case.” while the bespectacled boy couldn’t see Morgana, the smugness in his tone could be felt radiating in waves.

‘I wonder how he sounds to other people…’ Ren idly wondered as he’d never be able to hear Morgana just as a simple cat like others.

“Useful cat.”

“I’m amazing, aren’t I? You won’t find another cat that can pack an umbrella.” Morgana praised himself before catching the last word from Ren “And just so you know, I’m human!”     

“It’s raining quite heavily…” Ren looked ahead to see the source of the voice. Morgana’s antics had distracted him enough to miss his surroundings. It was the familiar redhead who introduced herself yesterday… her name was…

“Yoshizawa-san!”

“Amamiya-senpai!” Yoshizawa turned around to greet the familiar student council secretary.

“You don’t have an umbrella with you?” Ren tried to look at her bag to no avail.

“I actually forgot it… but it’s ok. I won’t get very wet if I run to the station!” she didn’t sound bothered in the slightest “I can count it as training!” which only frustrated Ren with her careless attitude regarding her wellbeing.

Ren flatly said “No.”

“Senpai?” Yoshizawa frowned at the disapproval.

“You’ll slip or worse, the rain is pretty bad. We’ll walk together.” Ren unfolded his umbrella.

“What? You’ll share your umbrella with me?” she considered it before nodding enthusiastically “Thank you!”

The pair walked at a steady pace towards the train station. Ren became a bit self-conscious at the girl’s distance from him though, or lack of distance more accurately. He’d think she was a bit to close but pushing her would both be rude and get her wet. The fact that they were the only people underneath the same umbrella as he could see only added to the awkwardness.

Luckily for his anxiety, Yoshizawa was the first one to open the conversation “Training has been hard recently, and I couldn’t afford to be sore or anything like that.”

“Training?” she mentioned training yesterday as well but for what was up in the air.

“Ah, for gymnastics.” Yoshizawa clarified. “It’s what I rushed out for yesterday.”

“But to be honest… I haven’t been doing very well in my performances and it has been very worrying…” she confided, and her sadness was clear as day. If she couldn’t cry, Ren would’ve thought the weather was doing it in her stead.

“So, I was wondering if you can give me advice… when you’re free of course.” She meekly tugged on Ren’s sleeves.

Ren was caught off-guard “Um… I’m not sure if I can give advice about gymnastics…”

“Oh, its nothing technical like that, I just think it’d be nice to have someone to talk to from time to time.”

“You can count on me.”


[Joker]

I am thou, thou art I
Thou hast acquired a new vow,

It shall become the wings of rebellion
that breaketh thy chains of captivity,

With the birth of the Faith Persona,
I have obtained the winds of blessing that
shall lead to freedom and new power…


‘Faith Persona… that wasn’t there before…’ before he could ponder any further the pair had already reached the train station.

Yoshizawa turned around to speak face to face “I’ll be fine for here on out.”

“I’m really grateful, I will be sure to find a way to return the favour.”

Before Ren could give an equally earnest reply, Shujin gossiping gangs already started “Huh, isn’t that Yoshizawa?”

“The sports prodigy?” another one by the first continued.

“She gets excused from class and even her boyfriend escorts her home?” now that one caused both subject parties to feel pink rise onto their cheeks.

“She really is a class above us…” the two Shujin students walked past the ticket gate away from sight afterward.

“I’m sorry. It looks like they mistook you as…” her eyes were downcast as she attempted an unneeded apology.

“It’s my fault.” Ren quickly took the blame. Rumours were, of course, just attracted to his very being.

Yoshizawa looked displeased at Ren’s willingness to shoulder the blame “No! It’s actually mine.”

“It’s like that in my class as well. I get treated quite a bit differently…” she started expanding on her own experiences too “The school also has pretty high expectations on my gymnastic performance.”

The redhead’s phone rang to interrupt her “I got a phone call from my dad. Excuse me.”

“Dad? Oh, sorry my phone hasn’t been working properly…”

“I’m ok. Yeah, see you then.” the call ended quickly.

“My dad is going to pick me up. He’s a bit overprotective.”

“He sounds like a great dad.” Ren almost bit his tongue. He hadn’t spoken to his parents since the probation and didn’t know how to parse through his feelings about the matter.

“Yes, he is.” Yoshizawa agreed immediately, not catching any of Ren’s discomfort.

“Well then, I have practice, so I’ll be on my way. Thank you for today.” Ren waved farewell and she returned it and then some.

“Goodbye!”


Sunday, 24th of April 2016
LeBlanc Attic, Yongen-Jaya
Morning

[Ryuji Sakamoto]

Ryuji Ren, want to hang at the gym today?

Ryuji I tripped when we made that escape from the palace.

Ryuji Need to get back in shape so that doesn’t happen again.

Sure I’ll meet you there Ren

[Ryuji Sakamoto]


Protein Lovers was a familiar setting for Ren though technically this was his first time in this version of reality. He did see from his secretary documenting work that the track team was still active albeit scaled back quite a bit since the recorded incident between Ryuji and Kamoshida. Ren sighed; this Ryuji experienced a much different set of events that led him to become a Phantom Thief than the one he remembered.

‘Can I even consider them the same people?’ Ren never thought of this prospect before. To him, Morgana then and Morgana now were essentially the same. The same went for Ryuji and Ann too. However, since he became aware of all the variations to reality, he didn’t know what to think of anymore. They had the same name, same faces and same voices as his team… yet…

‘Did I come back to the past to fix things…?’

‘Or did I just leave them dead in the future…?’

Ryuji’s loud voice interrupted his dire train of thought “Hey, you’re already here!”

“Man, and I thought I could run fast!” the blonde boy was panting wildly “But you’re already here.”

“Morning to you too, Ryuji.” his upbeat attitude easily caught others and Ren found himself smiling again.

“Let’s sweat up a storm, can’t keep letting Goro-senpai outdoing me!” the two entered the gym and did as they promised. The two spent most of their on treadmills working on speed and endurance. Ryuji, in particular, was trying his hardest to keep both his legs in sync despite his injury.

“About earlier, bad blood between you and Goro?”

“Nothin’ like that!” Ryuji almost got swept off the treadmill in surprise “It’s just, everyone looks up to the guy!”

“And I know I’ll never be like him, so I gotta find my own ways to shine! Y’know?”

“I get you.” Ren nodded and got off his own treadmill to watch the blond run “But let's be real here… why do you want to be someone like Goro?”

“I don’t believe for a second that your training just to be like someone else.” or at least he thought his Ryuji wasn’t like that. Whether this Ryuji from this time was truly different from the one he knew.

“…could it be so someone else could like you more?” Ren his eyebrow as he teased the blonde with another one.

“S-Shut up! I don’t think of Ann that way!” Ryuji once again nearly lost balance on the treadmill.

“I didn’t say anything about Ann…” Hook. Line. Sinker. He’d caught a Ryuji.

The blonde boy this time had to hop off the treadmill just to make sure he wouldn’t faceplant the floor “Ugh, fine I like Ann! Ya’ happy now!?”

“Well yes, but not exactly…” that answered one part, but a question still danced on his tongue “Why are you trying to be like Goro even when you know you can’t be?”

“Everyone looks up to senpai, even Ann… I do too!” Ryuji had childlike mirth to him when he spoke about the matter.

“I see…” Ren closed his eyes. Ryuji’s drive was always his shining trait and this one was no different from the first.

“I think you’re going about this the wrong way.” Ren stood up and got on the treadmill that Ryuji just got off “But I’m glad you're still the Ryuji I know.”

“Thanks, I guess? What does that even mean?” Ryuji got on another treadmill and tuned Ren out before he could hear him mutter.

“Maybe I’ll tell everyone someday…”


[Joker]

RANK UP! Chariot Confidant has reached Rank 2.


Monday, 25th of April 2016
Auditorium, Shujin Academy
Morning

Morning assembly was held in the gymnasium and called by Kamoshida himself who had finally returned from his self-suspension. Principal Kobayakawa started the school-wide assembly as he has done before. Ren was mostly thankful that no one was speaking ill of Shiho like they did last time.

“I… have been reborn.” The doors of the gymnasium swung open to reveal Kamoshida arms draped down and head hung low. “That is why I will confess everything to you all…”

The chattering of the students already begun as soon as they noticed the odd attitude Kamoshida had adopted.

“What’s wrong with Mr. Kamoshida?”

“Did the volleyball team do something?”

“What’s this about?”

The instructor dejectedly walked up on the stage where Kobayakawa was on and… confessed “I have repeatedly done things that were… unbecoming of a teacher.”

“Verbally abusing students… physically abusing my team and… sexually harassing female students.” Kamoshida’s knees had given in and he was kneeling on the stage.

The students in the assembly only grew louder at the admission.

“Sexual harassment?”

“Why would he say that himself?”

The student’s gossip did not deter Kamoshida who looked as if their words hadn’t registered in his mind at all.

“I thought of this school as my own castle…”

“I am truly sorry for putting innocent youths through such horrible acts…”

“I am an arrogant, shallow… and shameful person. No, I’m worse than that…”

His hands finally on the ground, he willingly prostrated himself before of the entire school “I will take responsibility and kill myself for it…!”

The gossip became full-blown shouting to the point that other teachers began clamouring for students to return to their classes.

“What!?”

“Did he just say that?”

Principal Kobayakawa approached the prostrating man and pleaded to no avail “Mr. Kamoshida! Please get off the stage for now!”

“I—”

“Don’t run, you bastard!” Ann interrupted him before he said something totally irreparable.

“You have no right to run from this!” Shiho followed up from her best friend's declaration.

“You’re right… you’re absolutely right…” his face rose from the ground, no longer prostrating himself.

“I should be punished under the law and atone for my crimes…”

“As of today, I will resign from my position as an instructor and turn myself in.”

“Someone, please call the police!”

Kamoshida pleaded the crowd, anyone, to bring him to justice and away from those he had harmed. The teachers attempted their best to scatter the students and return them to their classrooms but even that took a long while to accomplish. The student body was in an absolute uproar at the revelation of Kamoshida’s crime and by the looks of it some were already on their phone ready to share it with the world.


The six initial members of the phantom thieves agreed to meet up on the roof a bit after class to discuss what had unfolded. Ren and Goro were tied up doing student council drudgery in the meantime while Makoto was called into the principal’s office to discuss the matter with Kamoshida.

‘And if things go as expected, to find information about the Phantom Thieves and our identities.’

“So that is what a change of heart looks like…” Goro mused absentmindedly as he fiddled with a pen in his hand.

“Ren… do you think it might be possible to…” the older boy mutters until the volume in inaudible for Ren.

“Hm?”

“I was thinking to what extent we could change people’s hearts… But that would be selfish of me.”

“If you have someone in mind… bring it up to the thieves, all of us.”

“When it comes to something as important as changing hearts… I don’t want us to make decisions that others disagree with… putting it to a unanimous vote sounds fair for such an affair, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah… Ugh!” Goro fell to the ground as soon as Ren placed his hand on the older boy’s shoulder.


'Haha… I was such a fool.' What’s going on… is this me? I’m pointing my gun at… Joker?

'Yes… that’s the you our captain wishes to see.' Or is that me? I am Goro Akechi…? Or?

'…don't misunderstand.' My mouth moved on its own… is this a memory? One of the others I had forgotten?

'You’re the one who’s going to disappear' I swung my hand… not by my own volition, and pulled the trigger at my other-self…

The memory shifts once again and where Goro had been able to see the thieves had been obstructed by a bulkhead door.

'Whoa, what is this!?' That was Futaba… Oracle? We still hadn’t met each other in this time…

'Akechi!' Ryuji? What’re you doing so concerned about me?

‘Hurry up and go.’ I was making room for them to escape…?

‘You fool! Are you trying to get yourself killed!?’ Yusuke…? Madarame’s pupil… Another that I had not met yet…

‘The real fools… are you guys. You should have just abandoned me here a long time ago…’ I, my memory, speaks as if this is my demise…

‘You would have all perished… if you had tried to face these with me weighing you down…’ Is this where I had perished…?

‘Akechi-kun!’ The student council president… what is she worried about me for, its usually the other way around…

‘Let’s make a deal… Ok? You won’t say no… will you?’ A deal at the door of death…

‘Why at a time like this…!?’ Yusuke… asking the obvious it seems

‘Change Shido’s heart… in my stead… End his crimes…’ Shido… that bastard! That’s who we were fighting!?

‘Please!’ I begged… unusual, though with this pain… it’s justified.

‘I promise!’ Ren’s voice in the memory reached my ears and a wave of relief pass me.

Another shift in Goro’s memories occur and he was alone with the other-self, dressed in an odd get-up.

‘You bastard…!’ the other me sounded exactly like myself… Am I perhaps the fake?

‘So, my final enemy is a puppet version of myself…’ it felt oddly appropriate despite not knowing the circumstances.

‘Not bad.’ I spoke one last time as my silenced pistol was aimed at my other-self.

‘Akechi-kun!’ Haru’s voice… Haru… don’t pity me… Haru… Haru!


 [Joker]

RANK UP! Justice Confidant has reached Rank 3.


“Goro! Goro wake up!” the brown-haired boy’s eyes opened to Ren’s relief though that was short-lived. Goro darted his entire upper body up and ended up having his head clash with Ren’s own. The two rubbed the point of impact, attempting to massage the pain away.

“What the hell happened to you!?” Ren asked the more pertinent question in the situation.

“I died…?” Goro gaze skipped over Ren entirely.

“Died!?” the bespectacled boy was too shocked to come up with anything after.

“…” though the incoming silence only lasted a couple of seconds the heaviness of it all made it feel like hours had passed.

“Goro?” Ren was the first to break it.

“Did you succeed in your promise?” Goro’s eyes could focus on reality and its choice was Ren’s own “Did you take down Masayoshi Shido?” his steady gaze

Ren finally understood. Goro had remembered what had transpired inside Shido palace, the events that lead to not just his but of the entire Phantom Thieves’ demise.

“…we change his heart… stole his treasure…” Ren began slowly, uncertain to the extent Goro had recalled his past-self “However, we could not escape his crumbling Palace…”

“We all died…” the words rang hollow in his ear. It made sense, a twisted kind of sense, but it did connect.

Goro knew but needed, desired, confirmation “And we two are the only ones that remember?”

Ren nodded silently and let Goro continue “What a cruel twist of fate this all is…”

“I want to remember it all… I need to remember it all!”

“The thief outfit I wear currently was nothing like my memory!” he remembers his whole-body covering in black and dark-blue stripes. He couldn’t let it go anymore, not that he recalled what it was like.

“And my Persona! Loki! What happened!?” Goro clenched his fists in frustration before slamming it against the wall. He knew it wouldn’t bring answers, but he did it all the same.

“Who was I…?”

‘I… I hope you never figure out…’


The student council members of the Phantom Thieves finally made their way to the roof where the four other initial thieves were waiting along with Mishima cowering behind Shiho, keeping his distance between both Ryuji and Ann.

“What took you guys so long!?” Ryuji was the first to notice and speak up once their leader and vice-leader made their way through the door. The other thieves immediately swarmed their leaders once they took notice as well. Morgana made the first contact, finding his way back into Ren’s bag.

“We got—” Ren began before remembering the promise he said he would keep Please keep this a secret, at least until I learn the whole truth about myself.’

“…held up by student council work, nothing important.” Ren finished the lie.

Goro nodded quietly, grateful for his secrecy.

“No big deal then!” Ryuji patted both of them on the back.

“But seriously, that changing hearts business is something else!” Ann still could not believe Kamoshida simply turned himself in.

“He was like a totally different person!” Shiho shared her astonishment as well.

“This happened because of what happened in the… Metaverse, right?” Mishima added, still somewhat fearful of the other thieves.

“Of course, and Joker was also the one who figured out a method that would cause no physical harm as well!” Morgana added, much to the surprise of Mishima who still could not wrap his head around a talking cat.

“I’d like to ask you all again… now that you’ve seen it.”

“Will you still stay on the Phantom Thieves?” Ren dropped the question he’d been waiting for a long time “All our goals may diverge in time… but I’d still ask you to stay on.”

“Of course—” Ryuji was not even allowed to finish.

“Before you answer… please state, from the bottom of your heart, why you want to continue being a Phantom Thief.” Ren stunned them all to silence… or maybe they didn’t know how to begin.

“I’ll start… I want to avert the ruin that is approaching… and understand who my doppelganger was… catching however is causing the mental shutdowns… and making sure none of you die.”

“Well, that’s easy for me, I can’t stand adults like Kamoshida! If the Phantom Thieves are goin’ after people like him… then I’ll follow you wherever Renren!”

“I still have my own missing memories… and the answer to those will come from the depths of Mementos… if I stay with everyone, with the Phantom Thieves, then I know I’ll be able to restore my true form!”

“I-We can’t let people suffer! I couldn’t do anything against Kamoshida until I got my Persona, but not everyone has that luxury! I’ll keep fighting for those who don’t have the privilege to fight back lick us!”

“My reason for keeping on as Phantom Thief? I want to give people hope, that these rotten adults of the world can be made to confess. If it gives even one person hope to keep going on to see the next day… I’ll gladly keep being a Phantom Thief.”

“I-I’m new and I’m not sure what I can do r-right n-now but my shadow made me see that doing nothing can be just as bad as helping villains along. So as long as I have my Persona, I’ll help the Phantom Thieves any way I can… even if I didn’t have my Persona, I’ll still find a way to help. I swear it!”

“I don’t have too many lofty goals; I’ve always been in it from the start to punish shitty adults. If we keep at it, I see no reason to ever leave the Phantom Thieves.”


[Joker & Crow]

I am thou, thou art I
Thou hast acquired a new vow,

It shall become the wings of rebellion
that breaketh thy chains of captivity,

With the birth of the Fool Persona,
I have obtained the winds of blessing that
shall lead to freedom and new power…


It was official, the Phantom Thieves of Hearts was born anew.


25th April 2016
???
Evening

“Mama!” a tiny silver-haired girl ran towards the desk of a with a triangular label spelling out Mitsuru Kirijo. Behind the silver-haired girl was a woman with auburn hair fixed into a high ponytail and striking red eyes.

“Asahi were you good today?” the redheaded woman lifted her daughter from the floor with ease and gave her a tender embrace.

“Auntie Minako is super cool! She lets me eat all the sweets I want!” to that comment Mitsuru sent the now named Minako a piercing glare. Minako couldn’t help but gulp in fear.

“Well, you better be off to bed then… I’ll be with you soon.” Mitsuru lowered Asahi to the floor and gently prodded her to leave.

“I’ll see you later, Mama!” she yawned out the entire sentence as she was escorted out of the office.

With the two alone the temperature in the room seemingly dropped to reflect the severity of the situation “You’ve read the report, I assume?”

“Ken’s report you mean?” Minako skipped to the point, placing a strong emphasis on the name of the boy.

“Yes, about Suguru Kamoshida… strange isn’t it and how fortuitous for it to occur on Ken’s first day at Shujin as well.” Mitsuru, it seemed, had missed the point.

“No! Not that, why did you send Ken of all people to Tokyo?” Minako was furious

“You know why. He’s the only one capable of entering without rousing suspicious.”

“Bureaucratic red tape slows all our movement to a halt… especially during the last two years… even more so when it comes to Tokyo.” Mitsuru lamented on the powerlessness of the Shadow Operatives in needing their youngest member to act to get results within a recognizable timeframe.

“He hasn’t even graduated yet? What happened to him living a normal life?” Minako continued protesting at the incredulous expectations and situation the boy was placed under.

“…you knew that was impossible from start too. Ken did too…”

“…” stunned silence came from Minako as she knew Mitsuru spoke the truth.

“I thought you’d be happier… it would seem those dreams you had featuring Minato may have been true after all.”

The auburn-haired woman softened at the mention of his name. “I am happy about Minato-kun… I’m ecstatic and unbelievably hopeful.”

“But, Ken is all alone in Tokyo…” however not even that could alleviate her worry.

“He has Koromaru.” Mitsuru provided.

“He’s. Alone.” Minako reiterated and sighed as she added on:

“I just hope… he can find some friends along the way.”


MOON CONFIDANT

Rank 1 [Support]: Chance to cast -Unda skills on the enemies during battle.

Rank 3 [Enthusiasm]: Speeds up overworld movement in the Metaverse.

Rank 5 [Desperation]: Unlock a hidden persona.

Rank 7 [Phantom]: Chance to afflict all enemies with a random ailment.

Rank 10 [Salvation]: Chance to erect a shield on all allies to repel 1 (non-Almighty) attack.


FAITH CONFIDANT

Rank 2 [Tumbling]: Avoid dangerous encounters with incredible agility.

Rank 4 [Chain Wires]: Ambush shadows from afar.

NO FURTHER INFORMATION PAST RANK 5!


FOOL CONFIDANT

Rank 1 [Divide and Conquer]: Joker and Crow can divide into two teams within the Metaverse.

Rank 5 [Unison Attacks]: Allows certain party members to team up and perform a special attack under certain circumstances.

Rank 10 [Honour Among Thieves]: Avert ruin.


 

[ Joker ][ Crow ]   Confidant

   [ 1 ]      [ 1 ]      Fool
   [ 2 ]      [ 0 ]      Magician
   [ 1 ]      [ 0 ]      Priestess
   [ 1 ]      [ 0 ]      Lovers
   [ 2 ]      [ 1 ]      Chariot
   [ 3 ]      [ 0 ]      Justice
   [ 2 ]      [ 2 ]      Strength
   [ 1 ]      [ 0 ]      Moon
   [ 1 ]      [ 0 ]      Faith
   [ 4 ]      [ 0 ]      Universe

 

Chapter Text

Tuesday, 26th of April 2016
3-B Classroom, Shujin Academy
Morning

Ken initially thought that the task given to him was going to be a wild goose chase. It was a supposed tip from Minako-san that their former leader had spoken to her in her dreams and mentioned that he was somehow at Shujin Academy. It would’ve just been one of Minako-san’s wild ramblings if not for one thing: Aigis lost the power of the wildcard she had inherited from their former leader. Suddenly, there was considerable pressure to consider the Minako-san’s dreams as more than simple dreams.

Ken still thought that he was going on a wild goose chase. Though a request from Mitsuru-senpai to transfer and monitor Shujin Academy was placed on the table. It made some sort of sense, Ken was the only one of them that wasn’t on the active Shadow Operatives roster or reserves which meant he was beyond the scope of the government officials that had stifled the Kirijo Group’s movement for years.

Ken was even more convinced that he was on a wild goose chase when he visited the school on the 22nd. Shujin quite frankly, in Ken’s opinion, looked boring in contrast to Gekkoukan. The tour he was given of the campus was dreadfully plain with all school sites being inferior to what he recalled of their counterparts at Gekkoukan. He was however intrigued at his guide, Ren Amamiya, an unassuming 2nd year recently inducted into the student council despite the rumours regarding his background. There was also that girl that mistook him for an ‘Akechi’. He hadn’t ever heard of the name before, but he already felt an odd kinship with him.

Ken became somewhat less sceptical at the apparent wild goose chase during the morning assembly on the 25th. He did not know Kamoshida but all accounts he read and heard mentioned that it was entirely out of character for him. His confession was also odd given that he, until that moment, was going to keep getting away with his crimes. The most interesting facet of it all was the apparent calling card that had preceded Kamoshida’s string of absences before his confession.

‘The Phantom Thieves of Hearts…’

It was the closest thing he had to a lead at whatever mysterious relation their leader had to this school.

“Amada-san, it’s your turn to read out…” his seatmate, a girl with brown hair in a bob cut, called out to him. He had been so engrossed at the recent occurrences that he had forgotten he was in a classroom of all places.

“Ah, apologies…” Ken stood up and turned his textbook to the page indicated on the board and began translating the page.

‘I should think about that stuff later…’


Lunch had arrived and he brought out the store-bought bento he had readied. The wild gossip was already alit around him though, making for a distracting meal.

“Ah, it's another transfer student!”

“I heard he was seen around the school with the other one?”

“He looks so much like Akechi-kun!”

“I wonder if he has a girlfriend…?”

All of the voices were talking around him, but not at him so Ken felt little need to reply. Ignoring them was harder than expected, he had his experience with gossiping girls in Gekkoukan but they weren’t as voracious as this.

His seatmate, the one that aided him earlier, turned and waved at him “Hello, Amada-san.”

“Uhm—Yes?” he didn’t even know their name, which the girl was able to catch as well.

“I’m Makoto Niijima” she introduced herself quickly “I was wondering what you thought of Ren Amamiya… the boy who gave you the tour of our school last week?”

Ken thought back to black-haired bespectacled 2nd year that had escorted him. The boy was unassuming at best, other than the rumours that followed him wherever they went in the building.

“He was okay I suppose?” Ken gave passively and turned the question back around “Why do you ask?”

“I’m the Student Council President and was wondering if his performance was up to par.” now things were piecing together for Ken. It seemed like this was more of an assessment for the secretary boy instead of her attempting to strike up a conversation with a transfer student.

“Ah, so you’re Ms. President then?”

“Please don’t call me that.” she immediately frowned at his comment.

“Sorry, bad habit.” Ken shook his head, attempting to diffuse the awkwardness of it all.

“I could tell you were being apprehensive before regarding your answer about Ren…” Makoto returned to the previous topic she brought up.

“Well… I didn’t really talk to him that much, so I don’t know him all that well.” he gave out honestly.

“Alright, thank you for your thoughts Amada-san. I hope you enjoy your time at Shujin.” Ken felt he would indeed enjoy his time though it came from his own desire to see Minato-san’s mystery being unveiled.

Ken thought of another subject and called out to Niijima-san’s attention once more “One last thing, am I really like this Akechi-kun everyone likes talking about?”

“Hmm?” she eyed him head to toe with an inquisitive finger over her mouth “Oh, other than your looks… you two are too different to be mistaken by anyone who truly knows Goro-kun.”


Wednesday, 27th of April 2016
Student Council Room, Shujin Academy
Afternoon

“Ren! Goro-senpai!” Mishima burst forth through the student council room in search of his fellow thieves. He immediately noticed that there were three inside the student council room instead of the two he was told would be there.

“Oh, Niijima-senpai… sorry about that.” he bowed, embarrassment painting his face clear as day.

“It’s not a problem… Mishima-kun?” he nodded in affirmation at the apprehensive tone she used when calling his name.

“You are here for those two, correct?” she pointed at the diligently working Goro and the contrasting sleeping Ren.

“I am on my way to meet with Principal Kobayakawa, so you can speak to the two of them freely if you need to.” and with that Makoto left the room to the three boys.

“Ah, Goro-senpai… is Ren…?” available was what the boy had wanted to ask though he felt he already knew the answer from his sleeping, dishevelled state.

“No, he’s taking a break…” as if on cue, the sleeping boy snored loudly.

“A long break…”

“Oh…” Mishima’s enthusiasm drained away quickly.

“But if this is about… thief business… then I’m free to speak to.” Goro made sure to say it in a low voice.

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to trouble you…” Mishima apprehensively attempted to back off.

Goro shook his head and invited him once again “Nonsense. I’m technically second-in-command after Ren so anything you can share with him; you can share with me.”

“Alright… it’s about this new website I’ve set up.” the teal-haired boy relented.

“Website?”

“Yeah, the Phantom Aficionado Website.” Goro’s silence indicated for him to continue but it was still intimidating, nonetheless.

“It’s a website for people to post their problems for the Phantom Thieves to look into if they have the time…?” his doubts grew as he kept talking and he ended up questioning himself at the end.

“Why?” Goro’s eyes narrowed sharply as the other boy spoke.

Mishima continued voicing his doubts “Well if you wanted targets for people to help…”

“No, why do you keep saying ‘you’ and ‘they’?” Goro continued, finding the right words to twist in the wound “It’s us, isn’t it? Or was your declaration on the roof a lie?”

“No! I do want to help… it’s just if you guys won’t accept help from me as a Phantom Thief… then I can at least give help as Yuuki Mishima!”


[Crow]

I am thou, thou art I
Thou hast acquired a new vow.

It shall become the wings of rebellion
that breaketh thy chains of captivity.

With the birth of the Moon Persona,
I have obtained the winds of blessing that
shall lead to freedom and new power…


“Mishima—Yuuki-san…” Goro’s voice became soft when he switched names. “You are one of us now… so stop trying to distance yourself.”

“Goro-senpai…” Mishima relived was short-lived as the intensity from Goro suddenly grew ten times in strength.

“But if you do anything to harm our leader again…” malice fell from Goro’s voice and came crashing in waves that Mishima found it difficult to stay on his feet “Not even Ren can help you from me!”

“Understood?” Goro had added for good measure.

“Y-yes! Crow!” Mishima legs appeared as if they were made of jelly.

‘As planned’ Goro triumphantly smirked.

“Good, now is there anything else you needed to share?” Goro’s tone returned to the soft, welcoming one he had initially used to calm the boy down.

“N-nothing!” Mishima, however, was past the point of no return for today and wanted nothing more to do in the Student Council Room.

“Alright, good day. Yuuki-san.” Goro directed his hand to the door.

“A-a-ah, g-good b-bye Goro-senpai!” Mishima squeaked before darting out of the room in a manner very reminiscent of that of a rat.

“You do know I was awake, right?” the voice came from the secretary desk that was supposed to be housing a sleeping Ren. The secretary spoke, but no other strenuous movements were used as he stayed practically limp on his desk.

“Of course.” Goro sounded a bit too pleased with himself.

“You could’ve been nicer.” Ren yawned it out.

“What’s your point?”


Thursday, 28th of April 2016
Underground Mall, Shbuya
After School

Goro Akechi was no stranger to the limelight. Despite laying low and attempting his best to live life as a normal student, he’d gathered a sizable following from the female student body. The brown-haired boy had grown accustomed to it after a while and it became easier to deal with after he joined the Student Council. His reforms, also known as him getting rid of anyone not up to his standards, resulted in him exuding an aura of unapproachability.

Which is why he had come to his recent conundrum.

Ann Takamaki.

He was certain that she didn’t harbour any deeper feelings for him. So, it was a surprise when he received a text asking to meet up after classes at Shibuya. Goro agreed to it under the pretence that this was somehow related to thief business but as he rode the train, he grew uneasy at the possibility that this was something else.

‘I’ll send Haru a text as a heads up… just in case.’ he wouldn’t want her to pull out the axe on him again.

He disembarked the train after the system called for Shibuya as an incoming stop. The sights and sounds were something remarkable about Shibuya… for the first few times. Having to wade through it on a near-daily basis quickly made it an annoyance more than anything else for Goro. He made his way to the underground mall that Ann had called him to meet up.

‘It’s just Ann… nothing untoward will happen…’ he attempted to convince himself more than anything else.

“Goro-senpai!” Ann was the first one to spot him.

“Hello, Ann.” he returned a neutral greeting. She quickly dragged him around the underground hovering through multiple store windows and settling at a small shop that had been selling pancakes.

‘Dammit, why does everyone know!?’ Goro found it unbelievably difficult to turn down offers of pancakes. It became near impossible difficult when it was someone he knew instead of a random girl that was infatuated with him.

Stuffing his face with pancakes at a rate that outpaced Ann with sweets, he brought up the supposed nature of their rendezvous “What did you call me here for?”

“Uhm, I need some advice.” her blue eyes peered into Goro’s own brown before dropping the question.

“Do you think I’m attractive?” Goro nearly choked on his current bite of pancakes.

‘That would be too much of a tragedy.’ he audibly swallowed his current bite and put down his utensils and scanned Ann’s face.

‘Odd…’ there was no indication she was flustered or anything of the sort that most girls displayed when they began confessing to him.

“Uh…? Yes…?” Goro decided on complete non-committal.

That made her groan in disappointment “What’s with that lame answer… I’m not appealing enough then…”

“No, you are very appealing!” Goro jumped to her defence without thinking.

‘God, what am I even spouting right now!?’

“Then why does he keep brushing me off then!?” Ann raised her voice enough for other customers to start turning their heads at them.

“Huh?” Goro was at a loss. Not that he wasn’t before.

“There’s someone I like… and all he does it constantly give me hell!” she began explaining whilst growing more frustrated at every word “I’m starting to think I’m an idiot for thinking he could possibly think the same way…”

Goro began rubbing his temples as he pieced things together “Ok, I think I get what’s going on…”

Ann was asking him for relationship advice. For what reason? Who knows! Though that did raise a pertinent question that he decided to voice out.

“But why did you go through this roundabout way of inviting me out?”

“You would’ve said no if I asked straight up!”

“…” she wasn’t entirely wrong there.


[Crow]

I am thou, thou art I
Thou hast acquired a new vow.

It shall become the wings of rebellion
that breaketh thy chains of captivity.

With the birth of the Lovers Persona,
I have obtained the winds of blessing that
shall lead to freedom and new power…


“Just one thing though… why ask me? Wouldn’t Suzui-san be a better choice?”

“Shiho? No, no, no! Or I guess I already did?” she initially protested indignantly before thinking it over… and calming herself down? Goro was still at a loss of what Ann was thinking most of the time.

“I wanted a boy’s point of view?” she reasonably offered.

Goro, not one to relent to play matchmaker, attempted pawning it off “Why not Ren then? Isn’t he in your class too?”

“I guess…? But I don’t know… I know we’re teammates and everything…” she fidgeted in place, not knowing what exactly to say not to offend Goro. She knew that he held the new student council secretary in high regard.

“He’s too new, I guess? I don’t even know how I’d bring it up with him.” Goro sighed at the end of her explanation. It was very reasonable though if it was the duration that she was after then another person seemed more appropriate.

“Alright, but then why not Ryuji—” he was interrupted by Ann slamming on the table loud and hard enough to have the plates rattle out. Her eyes told him everything he needed to know, and he stopped that train of thought immediately.

“Okay, not Ryuji. I guess I don’t mind helping then…” she brightened at his apparent defeat though he did catch her face turn a certain shade at the mention of Ryuji.

‘Wait…. could it be—’ someone that keeps giving her hell? It would be a bit apt then…

‘Ah, well then…’


Friday, 29th of April 2016
Park, Inokashira Koen
Morning

Today was a national holiday and so Ken had decided it would be a perfect day to take Koromaru out on a walk. The albino Shiba Inu had been the only member of SEES that had accompanied Ken to Tokyo. Though it would be more accurate to say that Koromaru was the only one that could accompany him to Tokyo. Ken and Konomaru were the only SEES members that would rouse suspicion when sent to Tokyo on short notice. It was given since one was an underage minor that hadn’t been seen affiliated with the Shadow Operatives for four years and the other was a dog.

The two of them decided to spend the day together, as Koromaru had been left to his own devices since arriving in Tokyo. The apartment he was given access to was large and impressive, all of it sponsored by the Kirijo Group, but it made for an isolating atmosphere.

Ken and Koromaru eventually made their way to Inokashira park and took in the beautiful sight. The still lake and the couples on it were a calming sight and the relative silence in comparison to the hustle and bustle that defined Tokyo. Unfortunately for Ken, he had felt the immediate call of nature once they arrived at the park.

“Koromaru, I have to go—” his albino partner barked to cut him off immediately, somehow communicating displeasure.

“Really now, I really, really have to go!” Koromaru began to whine at Ken's insistence.

Ken ignored him for now and turned to a girl with curly light auburn hair sitting on a bench “Excuse me, miss? Do you mind watching over my dog? He’s smart and shouldn’t be any trouble!”

“Thanks!” Ken ran off too what he believed looked like a restroom before the girl could dignify him with a response.

“Goro-kun?” the girl pondered aloud at the boy’s retreating form before turning towards the dog he had been given the responsibility for. She didn’t catch his face to be certain, but it seemed he had styled his hair differently today.

Koromaru was dressed in an orange jacket with tiny wings that looked fit for a young boy. The dog also had an oddly intricate collar around his neck that looked a bit stifling at first glance but the Shiba Inu wasn’t bothered by it at all.

“Since when did Goro-kun have a dog…?” she petted the white-maned dog and he allowed her to do so. It was oddly calming for the girl to do so.

“Haru?” she was interrupted from her trance-inducing petting by a voice she had come to know very well. It was Goro-kun’s voice though she remembered that he had ran off in another direction not long ago.

“Whose dog is this?” registering his question left confusion on her face.

“Huh? You left him in my care…” confusion spread like wildfire between the two as a misunderstanding was clearly afoot.

“What do you—” before Goro could finish his inquiry, someone else ran up to the both of them.

“Thank you for watching over Koromaru—” Ken had returned, panting tiredly as Koromaru immediately went to his side.

Goro and Ken locked eyes, and something sparked for both of them at that moment.

“You… you’re Akechi-san?”

“Yes… and you’re the transfer… Amada-san, correct?”

Ken nodded dumbly, not failing to see the resemblance between both of them. If not for how differently they styled their hair, he might’ve been looking in the mirror. Something told him that his opposite number was thinking the same. Haru darted her gaze between the two, her earlier confusion still not remedied, and the current situation only compounded it.

“Two… Goro-kun’s…?” she asked in a daze.

“Oh, I’m sorry for not introducing myself, I did just run off earlier leaving you to take care of Koromaru.” the albino dog barked at the mention of his name.

“I’m Ken Amada, new 3rd year at Shujin Academy.” he flashed a disarming smile that he’d practiced many times.

“Another transfer student?” Haru tilted her head “You two look so alike…”

“I’ve been hearing that a lot…” Ken scratched the back of his head. It was annoying more than anything else but seeing the genuine article for himself made him a bit more understanding of other’s misunderstanding.

“Seeing you are acquainted with Akechi-san, I assume you are a student as well?” Ken returned with a question.

“I’m Haru, also a 3rd year at Shujin.” she bowed quickly.

‘Just Haru…?’ Ken thought shortly before dismissing it. Not his business to pry… unless?

“Thank you for looking after Koromaru, I hope he wasn’t being a hassle.” Koromaru somehow managed to bark indignantly, as if protesting the implication Ken gave.

“Well, we’ll be going now! Good meeting you, Haru-san, Akechi-san!” Ken took off with Koromaru in tow as the two set their sights on exploring more of what the quieter side of Tokyo had to offer.

Now, with the two by their lonesome, Goro audibly cleared his throat and inquired “So… you mistook me for him?”

“Goro-kun…” red attacked Haru’s face though the reason for her embarrassment was unclear. She couldn’t tell if she was embarrassed for mistaking Goro or for potentially hurting him by mistaking him for someone else.

“No, no. It’s more like… I can see why…” Goro didn’t blame her though, given how much time the two managed to spend outside of school was non-existent.

“I was just surprised to think we’d see each other outside of school” she admitted to the thought that floated between both their minds “We agreed not to meet each other outside…”

“Yeah…” Goro couldn’t add any more to that. There were too many complications with coming out clean with what was going on between them.

“I do want to see you more though… I don’t want to mistake someone else for you like that again!” Haru stared right into Goro’s eyes as she declared it. The brown-haired boy felt like she was looking past the so-called windows of his soul with the intensity of her gaze. Dumbstruck by her gesture, he simply returned with a smile accompanied by a three-word phrase.

“I’d love that.”


[Crow]

I am thou, thou art I
Thou hast acquired a new vow.

It shall become the wings of rebellion
that breaketh thy chains of captivity.

With the birth of the Empress Persona,
I have obtained the winds of blessing that
shall lead to freedom and new power…


Haru’s phone rings to interrupt the moment between the two.

Her face immediately darkens at the name of the messenger “Oh… its him…”

Only one person elicited that response from Haru ‘Sugimaru…!’

“I’m sorry Goro-kun… I have to go…!” she quickly dusted herself off and ran off quickly without waiting for his reply.

“It’s no problem… see you tomorrow.” he bade her farewell, but she was already gone by then.

Goro would’ve broken something in the vicinity if he hadn’t learned to control the rage he felt against the scumbag that happened to be Haru’s fiancé. He had wanted to ask Ren about changing that man’s heart… if it were possible but was interrupted by a flood of memories preceding his apparent demise in the future.

That wasn’t his concern for now though…

It was Ken Amada.

The boy looked so similar to himself that he couldn't shake the feeling that he could be his doppelganger they met in Kamoshida’s Palace. It was a stretch, but it was the first concrete line of investigation that had appeared. Ken’s transfer circumstances were also odd as he’d so quickly started his school year at Shujin right on the day of Kamoshida’s confession.

Goro decided to call their leader.

“Ren? We have a possible lead…”


Saturday, 30th of April 2016
2-D Classroom, Shujin Academy
Afternoon

The lesson had just wrapped up for 2-D and Mishima had been responsible for calling the session to an end with the traditional bow. Ren tapped on Ann’s shoulder to call her attention silently. Before she could open her mouth, he shushed her with a single finger on his own lips and directed his eyes towards Mishima.

Ann immediately understood what Ren was trying to communicate.

‘Apologize to Mishima.’

Just as his text in the group chat had said last week.

She nodded in understanding without uttering a word. Ren flashed her a grin before picking himself up alongside Morgana inside his bag and leaving the classroom.

“See you later, Lady Ann!” Mogana waved his own goodbye at the blonde girl.

“Idiot! They’re gonna hear the meowing…” Ren immediately complained.

“Sorry… hey, wait! I’m not a cat!” the two bickered as they left the classroom.

“Mishima-kun!” Ann called out too loudly for the whole class to hear “Are you free right now?”

“Oh no, I’m sorry. I’m meeting up with Suzui-san.” Mishima didn’t even turn around to meet her face to respond.

Ann nearly floored herself at the news “Shiho!? What’s this about…!”

“I don’t think it’s something important… she didn’t tell me what for, though.” Mishima continued.

“…do you mind if I tag along then?” Ann grit her teeth as she asked.

‘She didn’t say what for!?’

“Uhm, sure, if you want.” Mishima didn’t know how to decline Ann. Especially since what unfolded last week was still fresh on his mind. The accusation that he had willingly and knowingly led Suzui to Kamoshida’s clutches still rang often in his mind.

‘What does Shiho want with Mishima!?’

The two of them made their way to the unofficial Phantom Thieves hideout, the roof. The pair were silent to each other the entire way up which only left for a very tense and awkward Mishima. Ann for her part was still thinking what Shiho could possibly be thinking considering someone dangerous like Mishima alone.

‘What does Shiho want with Mishima that she isn’t sharing with me!?’

“Mishima-kun!” Shiho greeted the boy before noticing that he hadn’t come alone “Ann…? What are you doing here?”

“She—” Mishima was cut off abruptly.

“I should be asking you! You didn’t tell me anything about this!” Ann already began shouting from the rooftop.

“Huh!?” Shiho looked at Ann incredulously.

“And seriously, Mishima!? You know what he did right?” Ann’s left arm flew and pointed at the subject “How can you even consider someone like him?”

“Ann—” she seemed to have believed in a misunderstanding. However, Mishima’s face at this very moment told Shiho that the boy was about to shatter like he almost did until Ren stood up for him at the back alley.

“You can’t hide things like this Shiho.” Ann didn’t let her finish.

“I was just going to ask him to stay on the volleyball club…” she didn’t dare to tell her to shut up like Ren had so she went with the next best thing.

“Wha…”

“The volleyball club will disband if we don’t do something about it…” Shiho began.

“Without Kamoshida, or rather because of Kamoshida, the club will be put to a close with the scandals behind it.”

“Some of the players simply joined in the hope that they would get an easy road to success or a sports scholarship to a university if they had learned from an Olympic calibre athlete.” she scowled at the thought of some player on the team that already stopped attending practice when Kamoshida’s self-suspension was first reported.

“But… I’d like to keep playing volleyball because I love it!” Shiho heaved her chest after her declaration. It was certainly something that she wanted to get off her chest.

“Shiho…” Ann's face was downcast at the realization of her grave misunderstanding “I’m sorry…”

“No.” Shiho stood her ground, throwing the apology away.

“Huh?” the blonde girl was trapped in disbelief.

“There’s someone else you need to apologize to first before I’ll consider yours.”  Shiho walked towards the boy who had been silent the entire time. Ann only caught a glimpse of his face before the pair turned away and headed for the exit. That momentary look of hurt was burned not just into her memory but on her conscience as well.

“But you’re not going to fake one today.”


Sunday, 1st of May 2016
Shibuya Station Entrance, Shibuya
Afternoon

Ren gathered the seven of them together at Shibuya during the day as he planned to introduce the team to Mementos. He couldn’t remember why they first delved into the collective unconscious of Tokyo but starting early was, he thought, wouldn’t be a detriment.

He could already tell there was a tense atmosphere in the air between the team with there being a clear divide with Ann on one side and Mishima and Shiho on another. Ren shook his head; he had told Ann to apologize to Mishima yesterday but somehow things got worse. HE couldn’t believe his own luck sometimes.

“Yo, something wrong with you two?” Ryuji was the first one to break the ice between Shiho and Ann. He wasn’t one to mince words or notice a heavy social atmosphere between two girls.

“Uhm…” one of the girls started muttering. Ren didn’t care who and cut it off before they could start.

“Whatever it is, deal with it after today’s metaverse excursion.” Ren placed an ultimatum, he already planned out what he wished to accomplish today. He didn’t want it to get sidetracked by whatever had transpired yesterday.

“Morgana, you ready?”

“Always, Joker!” Morgana gave him the go signal.

“M-e-m-e-n-t-o-s.” Ren spelled it out loud enough for all the thieves to hear as he inputted it into the MetaNav.

“Everyone disappeared!” Ryuji was once again the first one to speak up. He was correct though as all the people that had been there before now

“Is this another Palace!?” Shiho had been the one to add to the conversation.

“This is a type of Palace, but it’s different from the normal ones.” Morgana began explaining as Ren had agreed to let him do so for Mementos exploration was something he desired.

“Come on, let’s head down. The shadows here lurk underground.” Morgana hurried them along “I don’t quite understand why. It may be because they’re drawn to something.”

“Underground…? How are we gonna get there?” Ann asked.

Morgana just shook his head as he descended the station’s stairs “How? You use it every day on your way to school.”

“Let’s go!” Ren called out to everyone as he followed Morgana’s pace.

Ren felt strangely at home in Mementos. It was an odd feeling considering that it was practically a nest of hostile shadows and barely could keep its layout similar through multiple excursions. Despite that though, the familiarity that it exuded for him was incomparable to any previous experience he had in this new version of the past.

“The hell is this place…?” Ryuji was commented idly.

“Your clothes already changed?” Mishima exclaimed from his unseen state. He had also donned his thief outfit.

“This means the shadows know we are here” Goro oddly examined himself, seemingly hovering his hand over where his Black Mask costume would’ve been.

“Since the moment we stepped in.” Morgana confirmed their suspicions.

“You should’ve told us!” Ryuji complained to Morgana in particular.

Morgana just shook his head “We should be safe up here.”

“I’ve come to investigate a number of times. Shadows never come up to this floor.” though he continued to warn them about the incoming dangers exploring its structure entails “It’s a different story once you go down. This place is simply teeming with them.”

“More importantly, what is this Mementos?” Goro was the one to inquire about this.

“Memento is… everyone’s Palace.” Ren jumped in. Morgana confirmed his explanation with a nod.

“Everyone’s palace… you mean this is somehow the collective unconscious of the general public?” a thought had crossed his mind centering around Sugimaru. Goro filed it at the back of his mind at the moment.

“How far does it go?” Goro continued with his questioning.

“What do you mean?”

“How far does it encompass…? It can’t be the entire world… Perhaps just Japan or perhaps just Tokyo…” it was an interesting thought though not one they could verify easily.

“I don’t know honestly…” Morgana slumped in self-disappointed that Ren managed to catch on quickly. Their leader patted the not-cat on his head as if trying to silently communicate ‘It’s alright’. The odd creature in the group would’ve normally shrugged it off or protested but something about Ren’s presence exuded calming energy.

“But if this is everyone’s palace… does that mean we can change people’s hearts even without having their own palace?”

“This place looks pretty huge. Are we just gonna be able to get around just by walkin’…?” Ryuji put up an excellent point.

“My time has finally come…” Morgana entered a pose “Mooorgaaana… traaansfooorm!”

“You just turned into a car!”

“No way!”

“Intriguing… is this because of the ‘cat’s turning into buses’ is an oddly widespread cognition among the general public.” Goro, alongside Ren, were the only two left unphased by the transformation.

“You catch on fast, Crow!” Morgana, somehow speaking as a car, confirmed.

“One must be well-informed in situations such as this.” Goro proudly, or arrogantly depending on your view, puffed his chest out forward.

“Indeed.” Morgana would’ve imitated him had he not been a car.


[Crow]

I am thou, thou art I
Thou hast acquired a new vow.

It shall become the wings of rebellion
that breaketh thy chains of captivity.

With the birth of the Magician Persona,
I have obtained the winds of blessing that
shall lead to freedom and new power…


“Let get goin’ then…” Ryuji wanted to get in the weird car as fast as possible. Best seats came to those who got in first, of course.

“Hey! Ladies first, Ryuji!” Ann immediately tried to push the blonde boy out of her way.

“No. We still have another matter to attend to.” Ren halted the pushing and shoving between the two as he called out the missing member of their party.

“Mishima?”

Everyone else finally noticed that they were down one member after all this time “Uhm, where is Mishima?”

“I’m here…” a disembodied voice echoed within all their minds.

“Whoa, what the hell was that?”

“Mishima has a support type Persona and thus can communicate with us at any distance within the Metaverse.” Ren recalled his knowledge of Futaba’s own role in the Phantom Thieves.

“Whoa, that’s awesome dude!” Ryuji would’ve given Mishima a hard pat on the back if he could see him.

“But where is he?” Shiho aired her worry; she swore she was at Mishima’s side when they headed down the stairs.

“I go invisible when I don’t summon my Persona…” Mishima informed everyone.

“Interesting…” Goro nodded and entered a thinking pose at the possibilities.

“We still need a codename for him…” Ren reminded everyone of the most valuable thing that every Phantom Thief had.

“Codename?” Mishima asked.

“Yeah, we use codenames in the Metaverse!” Ann responded to Mishima directly for the first time since yesterday. It was easier since they couldn’t see him.

“I wonder… we can’t really see Mishima so I can’t come up with anythin’…” Ryuji was stumped for ideas.

“We can’t see him…?” Shiho thought out loud.

“What about ‘Invisible’?” Goro offered first.

“Isn’t that… a bit too on the nose?” Mishima lightly protested the first idea for his codename.

“…what about ‘Ghost’?” Shiho offered reluctantly.

If they could see him, they would’ve known his face brightened at the idea “Ghost…? I like it! I’m ‘Ghost’ now”

“Wow, Shiho. You’re pretty good at this whole codenaming business.”


Monday, 2nd of May 2016
3-B Classroom, Shujin Academy
Morning

The start of a new week for Ken and luckily, or perhaps unluckily, there was no odd morning assembly with a confession from a teacher. Finding out who these Phantom Thieves were was proving to be a difficult task given no one even knew who put up the calling cards that morning. The school also didn’t offer any surveillance tools such as cameras to attempt to catch someone at the act so that route was closed off as well.

Ken sighed at his desk catching the attention of his seatmate, Makoto Niijima. It was only for a brief moment, but she turned her head towards him in… concern? Whatever the emotion was, she didn’t voice it out.

Niijima-san did lead him to think of the Student Council Shujin had and their odd set of characters. There was the president sat beside him, the secretary that had escorted him around the school, and the vice-president that he had met at Inokashira park the other day.

He could tell that there was something off about the other two student council members that weren’t seated beside him. Amamiya-san was unassuming but the rumours behind him were oddly persistent and while he couldn’t dig deep enough to find who exactly the boy assaulted to award him with a criminal charge, he didn’t seem like a violent delinquent from the few interactions he had with him.

‘Then again… they never do…’

Then there was the strangest one of the two, Akechi-san. Their meeting at Inokashira had been purely by chance but it felt like something more. Like something had changed merely by them introducing each other. He couldn’t find another word but supernatural to describe it.

Ken’s stray thoughts continued until the lesson had concluded. He checked his phone only to find another swarm of concerned messages from Minako-san. Before he began reading them though, he spotted a weird black and red app that seemed to form a silhouette for an eye.

‘I don’t remember installing this.’

He swiped and deleted it off his phone and stood from his seat to continue his investigation on the Phantom Thieves.

Chapter Text

Tuesday, 3rd of May 2016
Cafe LeBlanc, Yongen-Jaya
Morning

Ren’s plan for a lazy holiday morning was interrupted by a wakeup call from the café’s owner.

‘And here I thought I could sleep in one of these days.’  Ren groggily rose from bed and ruffled his hair.

“Hey, you can hear me, right?” he could actually hear Sojiro’s words this time “You don’t have plans, do you? Come help me out, instead of sleeping your life away.”

“We do owe it to him…” Morgana awoke from Ren’s shifting and heard every word “Let’s hurry down and help out.”

“What do you mean? I’m the only one that going to be helping.” Ren changed out of his pyjamas and reminded Morgana “And remember no pets downstairs. That includes cats so stay up there!”

“I’m not a cat!” at least teasing Morgana was a sure-fire way to brighten Ren’s day.

The café was empty when Ren descended the stairs but Sojiro already had a lot of work piled up for him in the sink. Ren sighed but smiled, he missed helping their ‘Boss’. Not everyone would so shelter a supposed dead fugitive in the same place he had been staying the entire year. Ren truly didn’t know how to repay him, even if he had gone back to before everything that had happened.

“Heh, sorry I kinda pressured you into doing this.” Sojiro was watching him work from over the counter.

“Just last week…” the news plays on the single TV the café had. It had been reporting on Kamoshida’s scandal. Sojiro and Ren already were familiar with the overbearing report and tuned out the reporter’s voice as they went on with their respective tasks.

The door to LeBlanc opened and Ren heard the greeting from a familiar voice “Good morning!”

“Haven’t seen you around in a while, kid.” Sojiro was seemingly familiar with him.

“Sorry Sakura-san, school has been even more demanding since 3rd year started.” Ren was certain that was Goro’s voice just there.

‘First Shujin, now LeBlanc too!? Sojiro also talks like he’s a regular… how long has he been visiting here?’

“No problem… what can I get’cha?” Sojiro went behind the counter and began preparing a blend, not even waiting for Goro’s answer.

“Whatever you recommend, as always…” Goro peered over the counter seat he had just taken and spotted the student council secretary slash phantom thief leader “Hmm? Ren?”

“You two know each other?” Sojiro asked nonchalantly, continuing to brew the coffee.

“Well we do both go to Shujin…” Goro offered weakly, not knowing how much he should reveal to Ren’s caretaker.

Sojiro offered the brown-haired boy the coffee but still pressed for an answer “Well yeah…”

“He made me join the student council!” Ren claimed, truthfully in his opinion.

“Ok—wait what!?” Sojiro nodded along before registering exactly what Ren had said.

“You? On the student council?” the old man asked incredulously. The idea that a recently transferred delinquent could so easily join something with that much prestige and responsibility was foreign.

“Yes? Is there something wrong with that?” Ren turned from his work at the sink and tilted his head questioningly.

“No… actually, that’s pretty great.” Sojiro conceded and pondered what good it could do for the kid “It might keep you out of trouble.”

The old man turns to Akechi yet still somehow gives a warning to Ren “Tell me if he does anything, alright?”

“Oh no, if anything… he’s been a big help since joining!” Akechi laughs it off and raises a single hand defensively.

“Is that so…?” Sojiro watched in silence as the two students continued bickering throughout the morning. A smile crept up his lips.

‘Maybe this year won’t be so bad…’


Wednesday, 4th of May 2016
Cafe LeBlanc, Yongen-Jaya
Morning

Ren decided to help Sojiro at LeBlanc again today and was once again relegated to washing utensils and the like at the sink.

‘Right, Boss still doesn’t let me brew coffee yet…’

His idle thoughts were interrupted by a very familiar face dropping by. It was Makoto’s older sister, Sae Niijima, who had been the one to interrogate him in that past life. He turned his head away, not knowing what to even say and turned his attention to the news report instead.

“The cause of the runaway-train incident in the subway the other day still has not been found. Police are hurrying to solve the matter as it may be related to the rise in psychotic breakdown incidents.”

“Oh, is that the thing everyone’s been talking about?” Sojiro gave the news some notice this time.

“Doesn’t it make you curious?” Sae-san jumped in and made it a conversation immediately “People who were living normal lives suddenly went mad or deranged out of the blue…”

“Not to mention that it’s happening one after another… could they really be coincidental?” Sae continued to ponder aloud. Ren, of course, already knew the answer to that. Goro’s apparent memory loss left a big question mark on who the culprit was this time around.

“Hmm… leaving that aside…” Sojiro cleared his throat, uninterested in the subject altogether “What’ll you have?”

“I’ll have the house blend please.” Café LeBlanc’s proprietor went to work at the request.

Sae turned away from the barista’s work and directed her attention to Ren instead “Are you a part-timer? I’m surprised this place can afford one.”

“Uh, that’s exactly the case…” Sojiro answered before Ren could even respond.

“Are you a high school student? Where do you attend?”

“Shujin Academy.” Ren’s answer coincided with the door opening to introduce someone new once more.

“Oh…? Someone I know goes there as well.” Sae continued the conversation, ignoring whoever had entered.

“Sae-san?” Goro sat beside her and gave his best smile.

“Akechi-kun?” she was taken aback by the mere presence of the brown-haired boy.

“Are you interrogating my friend?” he rebutted with another question.

“No, nothing of the sort.” Sae denied.

“Did you know he’s the new secretary for the student council?” Goro informed her.

“Is he now? Makoto hasn’t mentioned that…” Sae frowned at the thought of her sister.

“She hasn’t…?” Goro wondered why as well.

“Well, you two being here is interesting, do you frequent this establishment often Akechi-kun?”

“Somewhat, much more so when I was still a second year…”

“I see… you don’t mind me asking how you got into the student council” she turned towards the bespectacled boy before realizing her mistake “Ah my apologies, I haven’t introduced myself.”

“I’m Sae Niijima, you probably know my younger sister Makoto.”

“Amamiya Ren, nice to meet you too.”

“The story about me joining is uninteresting I’m afraid, Makoto approached me one day and offered the position.”

“I believe he had something to do with it.” Ren pointed towards Goro who had an innocent grin on his face “I haven’t gotten much out of him though.”

Too innocent if you asked Ren.

“I see… well, I suppose they both see something in you given how they shouldered all the work by themselves for over a year.”

“Both?” Sojiro perked up at that whilst still brewing her coffee “Sounds like you have a lot of work ahead of you.”

Ren nodded at Sojiro’s interjection ‘You don’t know the half of it’ Goro and Makoto were often found being called by teachers, staff and students alike which left Ren alone in the student council room often. This also meant he was mostly left alone to sort, copy, record, and the like.

‘Sometimes I think Goro just gave me the invite to mess with me…’

“I’ve heard things are rough there since last week.” Sae steered the conversation somewhere else instead “A teacher named Kamoshida confessed his crimes like he was a completely different person, supposedly.”

“And it happened all of a sudden one day…”

“Can a person’s mental state change so easily?” she left the question open.

“No.” Ren added with a surprising amount of conviction.

“What!” Goro whispered beside Ren. ‘What is he doing!?’

“Oh? Do you happen to know something about what happened with Kamoshida?” Sae narrowed her eyes at the bespectacled boy. ‘If he does know something… just maybe…’

“No, not about Kamoshida.” Sae’s face fell at the admission “I meant the ease of a mental change.”

“I believe that something did happen to Kamoshida.”

“Oh, what do you have?”

“Yes, Ren do share what you have…” Goro clearly displayed his displeasure at the conversation Ren was carrying along.

“It’s nothing concrete… but don’t you think the sudden change in mental state is similar to that of the psychotic breakdowns on the news too…?”

‘This boy…’

‘Where are you going with this… Joker?’

‘Hoo boy.’

“It’s just conjecture… but I believe they can be potentially related.” Ren finished.

Sae attempted to play it cool but her face told Ren that she had come to a similar line of thought before “Is that so… are you planning to be a detective when you graduate, Amamiya-kun?”


[Joker]

I am thou, thou art I
Thou hast acquired a new vow.

It shall become the wings of rebellion
that breaketh thy chains of captivity.

With the birth of the Judgement Persona,
I have obtained the winds of blessing that
shall lead to freedom and new power…


“Nothing of the sort… it’s just something that piqued my interest given the school I’m attending.”

“I see, that’s an interesting thought… would you mind if I return here in the future to…?” the words were stuck on her tongue, she was just about to ask to rendezvous with a high school student. Albeit it was for her work as a prosecutor, but it still can and would come across as highly inappropriate.

Ren saw no issue and answered her open question “I don’t mind. More customers are always welcome, right Boss?”

Sojiro just nodded, not dignifying what almost happened with his voice.

“What are you doing?” Goro whisper contained his bottled frustration this time. ‘Was he trying to give up the fact we are the Phantom Thieves?’

Ren just mouthed “Tomorrow” inaudibly.

“Here’s your order.” Sojiro finally brought the house blend she had ordered. It might’ve gone cold after the conversation though.


Thursday, 5th of May 2016
Cafe LeBlanc, Yongen-Jaya
Morning

After helping out two holidays in a row at LeBlanc Sojiro had thought to give Ren at least a day off from helping around the café. The bespectacled boy still helped around the around cleaning early on in the day, much to Sojiro’s chagrin. The old man had to shoo the boy away to the attic so he could make him take a break.

“Hello, is Ren here?” Goro’s voice came through from the lower floor.

Sojiro directed the boy to the stairs “Yeah, he’s just upstairs.”

“Thank you.” Goro was polite as always to his elders.

Ren was on the workbench working on making infiltration tools with Morgana over his shoulder keeping an eye on his work. The black-haired boy was extraordinarily focused but even Goro could tell Ren noticed when he had entered the room.

Goro took a seat on the couch and Ren turned his seat around and met his gaze.

“So, what are we starting with today?” Ren’s bored nonchalance was met with Goro glaring daggers at him.

“You know what I want to talk about!?” Goro aggressively raised his voice before taking deep calming breaths “What are you planning to do with that… stunt you pulled with Sae-san?”

“Who is Sae-san?” Morgana, ever clueless of the events of yesterday, hovered between the two awaiting an answer.

“Makoto—the student council president’s sister.” The bespectacled boy clarified no further.

Ren tapped his fingers on the surface of his workbench “We need her help…”

“What do you mean?” Goro’s eyes narrowed as Ren’s thought process hadn’t sunk in.

“As you—the identity of the perpetrator behind the psychotic breakdown incident is unknown, we need an avenue into the database of those officially involved with the investigation…”

“You did talk about catching whoever was causing the mental shutdowns…” Morgana recalled back to the day they had proclaimed their goals on the school’s roof.

‘Last time the team had Makoto tamper from her sister’s laptop.’ Ren grimaced at the though, it was an inelegant plan made on the spur of the moment. The chances of it failing were much higher and Ren felt, no he knew, that they had lucked out last time.

“I’d we avoid taking unnecessary risks, especially when it comes down to someone as dangerous as the culprit for the mental shutdowns.” Ren finished.

“Which is why you dropped that hint about the connection between the cases?” Goro reminded the other boy of what had happened yesterday.

Morgana, who was out of the loop, turned towards Ren “Connection?”

“Ren hinted at a relation between our changing of hearts and the mental shutdowns.”

“You what!?” the not-cat was loud enough, that it begged the question of how loud its meowing sounded to regular people.

“It was just to pique her interest enough for her to consider me as someone worth speaking to.” Ren waved off the concern from two of his fellow thieves. He then made himself look especially pitiable with downcast eyes and biting his lip “I mean, I’m just a student on probation, not much I could say to get her on my side.”

“Well, that’s certainly—” Goro was interrupted before he could finish.

“Ingenious?” Ren attempted to be self-aggrandizing.

“I was going to say devious… but sure.” only for Goro to shut that door.

Morgana who had been contemplating what involving a non-persona user could entail, especially one that was investigating a case similar to theirs “What are we going to do when she gets too close though?” raised an important worry.

“I don’t think Sae-san is an incorrigible person… if worse comes to worst we’ll change her heart.” Ren would rather that not come to pass.

Seeing as Goro had gone silent Ren prompted him to share his information “That was my piece… let me see this theory you have about Amada-senpai.”

“Is that a school laptop?” Ren stared as Goro pulled out an old, blocky and decrepit looking laptop.

“It’s better than not having one…” Goro shot back, noticing that Ren had none at all in his rather large room.

“Ouch, point taken.” Ren dropped it immediately “Onto Ken Amada, what do you have?”

“He’s a transfer from Gekkoukan High School, Tatsumi Port Island.” the brown-haired boy started.

Ren mockingly yawned “Yeah, I read his file too…”

“He was also a member of the student council at his high school.” Goro continued elaborating, unphased by their leader’s taunts.

“What, you thinking of roping another poor soul like me?”

“Poor soul? You, Joker?” Morgana jumped in just to take his own pot-shot.

“Hey, I’m under probation for a false assault charge here!” Ren protested weakly.

The not-cat shook his head “Uhuh, wronged perhaps but certainly not poor.”

“Ahem” Goro coughed loudly to interrupt the bickering the two had engaged in.

“That’s just his surface data which isn’t too difficult to find…” Goro’s voice grows wistfully distant “He also seemed to have lost his mother at a young age and has been orphaned ever since.”

“Shit… but how does that—” Goro continued without even registering Ren’s comments.

“Two years after he was orphaned, he was invited to live in Iwatodai Dormitory.”

“The dorm for Gekkoukan High, right? But wait… he would’ve been—” once again, Goro cut him off but he listened to what he had said this time.

“Eleven. He would have been an elementary school student at the time, which begs the question, why?”

“I see where you’re going with this… he’s not an ordinary student for sure.” Ren could imagine that there was something behind the scenes. A cover-up behind the death of Amada-senpai’s mother. Though that still begged the question of how this linked up to what Goro proposed on his call with him on 29th.

“But nothing about this would lead me to think that he’d be your doppelganger…”

“I know that, but something feels… odd about him.” the student council vice-president sagged his shoulders. He was trumped there. Besides the oddity of the boy’s background and the striking resemblance they shared, nothing was incriminating him to be the mysterious doppelganger.

“What about what I said earlier, inviting him into the student council?” Ren returned to the ‘roping him in’ joke tossed in earlier.

Goro was quick on the uptake “Friends close, enemies closer?”

“Well not so much… enemies, but yes.” Ren was still apprehensive with considering Amada-senpai an enemy, but he couldn’t wholly disagree with Goro’s suspicions.

“I’ll… discuss it with Makoto.” the brown-haired boy packed the laptop he had brought back into his bag. Goro stood and began moving his way to the stairs.

“Wait, you mean right now?”

“Why waste time?” Goro's obvious tone was not missed. He didn’t see anything odd about his actions.

“Ugh, fine… see you tomorrow.” Ren conceded, whatever Goro felt about Amada-senpai, there was little arguing him into slowing down.

“You too! You as well, Morgana!” Goro waved to both of them as he descended the stairs.

“So, Ren, maybe we should get ourselves a laptop.” Morgana started bringing up what Goro teased them on earlier.

“Shut it…”


Friday, 6th of May 2016
Shujin Academy, Aoyama Itchome
After School

[Kasumi Yoshizawa]

Kasumi        Hello Senpai! Are you free today?

Yes, you in need of some life advice? Ren

Kasumi        Don’t make it sound weird senpai!

Kasumi        But yes, something like that.

Kasumi        Would you like to grab something to eat with me in the cafeteria?

Sure, why not. Ren

Kasumi        Thank you! I’ll see you there.


“I’m sorry for calling you here all of a sudden.” Ren and Kasumi were sat by their lonesome in the cafeteria. There were only a few other students as all the lessons had already concluded for the day.

“There’s a lot I’ve been thinking about since then. I’ve been wondering what other talents I have other than gymnastics.” Kasumi pulled out a bento box and gave it to Ren “And then it struck me! This is it!”

“Cooking?” the bespectacled boy asked.

“Meal planning is important when it comes to gymnastics. I’ve kept my cooking skill up because of it…” she began talking about gymnastics again, but Ren didn’t comment on it yet.

“That’s why I prepared a bento box for you too today! It’s my thanks for letting me share your umbrella!” she brightened considerably when remembering that day.

“Um… this is the first time I’ve cooked for someone outside my family so I’m a little nervous…” pink tinged her cheeks momentarily at the admission.

“But I found making it fun! I took into consideration your physique and potential exercise regimen from your build when I was preparing it too…”

‘My build?’ that was something to think about later as he looked at the food before him “It looks good!”

“Don’t hold back!” Ren opened the bento box at her behest and inside laid an assortment of dishes arranged neatly into their exclusive areas.

“The chicken breast and fried egg are good for fighting fatigue…” she explained in what Ren would consider unnecessary detail.

“Weight control is important when it comes to gymnastics but one needs to be mindful to not run low on stamina…” Ren raised his brow ‘She seriously can’t get her mind off gymnastics, can she?’

“High protein low-fat diets are standard for most athletes. As well as an into of iron to build stamina, with Vitamin B1 to help with recovery…” she had completely entered lecture mode as she listed the benefits of the food she had prepared.

“Wait… I’m still looking at this through gymnastics, aren’t I?” Ren nodded this time to confirm her worries. She buried her face into her hands in embarrassment. The way that her face had lit up made it somewhat hard to tell where her hair ended, and her face begun.

‘Cute…’ Ren absentmindedly thought “Don’t concern yourself about it, let's just eat!”

That had lifted her spirits if her wide smile was anything to go about. She opened up her own bento… which was about four times in size compared to his own. Ren adopted a dumbfounded expression without his notice and could only look and speak with his mouth agape.

“Is that… all for you?” Ren’s stared directly at her oversized bento boxed and couldn’t peel away his gaze.

“Yes! It’s the perfect amount, I won’t leave a trace behind!” upon noticing the expression on his face she started pouting “Amamiya-senpai, your face is telling me I can’t finish it.”

“This may look large, but in actuality, it’s moderate in size.” Kasumi continued as Ren could only think ‘Someone who can eat as much as me… I should take her to the Big Bang Burger Challenge sometime.’

“My practice regiment burns all of it off too.” She noted proudly before prodding both of them to begin eating “Go ahead and help yourself, senpai!”

‘This is…’ as Ren began digging in a nostalgic yet odd feeling washed over him ‘A very familiar taste… but something is lacking…?’

‘The taste… something feels off…’ he would say it was on the tip of his tongue but that would be pushing it considering the circumstances.

 “Amamiya-senpai? Is something wrong with—”

“It’s unique…?” Ren cut her off immediately, still trying to figure out what was so odd about the meal.

“Really, it's just ordinary food for gymnasts.” she noted, though her spirits rose at what she took as a compliment.

She noticed the empty look in her senpai’s eyes “Is the flavour too weak?”

“No that’s not it…” Ren continued thinking yet was no closer to the truth.

“I thought that no one would dislike curry, so I made it with that flavour in mind.” she offered aloud which sparked something in Ren’s mind.

‘Curry?’ then it all clicked for him.

“Wait, is it too mild for you? Do you prefer it super spicy!?” the redheaded girl began dreading what her senpai thought of the dish.

“That’s not it.” Ren tried to calm her to no avail.

Kasumi stood up in a panic and was about to dash off “I’m sorry, I must’ve been too light on the flavour! Perhaps I should’ve added more soy sauce? Miso? Oh, maybe it needs more salt!?”

“You’re going to flavour it now?” a single brow raised at the silly reaction she had given him. ‘Was she really so concerned about the taste of a meal that much?’

“You’re right, I should’ve brought something edible from the start!” her eyes were downcast as something akin to horror had taken over. She had genuinely believed she had ruined the meal between herself and her senpai.

“This fine as is.” Ren brought her back down to reality and her seat as well.

“Fine…?” she frowned, which was an improvement to the abject horror she donned earlier “Thank you… let’s eat.”

Ren and Kasumi began eating their meal in silence. No words were exchanged in between bits as the two had paced themselves to finish promptly.

“Thanks for the meal…” she wanted to be upbeat but couldn’t keep it up anymore “Sorry, I feel kinda dejected.”

“I thought I was good at making bentos but I can’t even pick the right flavour.” her tone had taken a sombre note.

“I never make the right decisions… even when I was so high in spirits when cooking too.”

‘This somehow feels like my fault.’ the black-haired boy scratched the back of his head as he attempted to explain “It’s not your fault…”

Ren thought back to Sojiro’s own cooking and the style of curry he had learned from the old man “My caretaker might’ve ruined curry for me for the rest of my life.”

“Amamiya-senpai?” the sorrow in her voice had been replaced with confusion ‘at least that looks better…’

“Come visit Café LeBlanc in Yongen-Jaya sometime if you want to see what I mean.”


[Joker]

RANK UP! Faith Confidant has reached Rank 2.


“I’ll take you up on that offer senpai!” the confusion was completely gone, replaced entirely with an elated expression complete with a smile. “But, when should I go?”

“Whenever you’re free, I’m usually there.” Ren didn’t think too much about it, he usually was helping Sojiro around the café after all.

“If I’m not there… you can ask Sakura-san, the owner. He should know.” the bespectacled boy clarified one final time, to dissuade any apprehension she harboured.

“Alright senpai! I’m looking forward to it!”


Saturday, 7th of May 2016
Mementos, Metaverse
Morning

Ren had called all the thieves to meet up after school. He had planned for a Mementos excursion courtesy of the forum posts on Mishima’s website. The seven already entered Mementos and donned their thieves’ outfit and awaited instructions from Joker.

“We were here last time, but only as a short introduction to remind everyone it existed.” Ren sat on a ticket gate while giving everyone a lecture.

“This time we have a goal” he continued and pointed to his phone “Natsuhiko Nakanohara, I assume everyone read the forum post I linked them?”

“Yeah, he’s that scumbag stalking his ex-girlfriend, right?” Shiho had grown much more vulgar since joining the thieves. Evident by her choice of words when describing the target.

“Works as a teller at city hall, too.” Mishima added as he’d been the first one to read the request as the admin to the forum.

Ryuji rolled his eyes as if expecting no less “A government worker’s stalkin’ someone…?”

“Next is who’s going on in the frontlines...” that perked everyone up. Ryuji especially was looking forward to blowing off some steam against Shadows.

“Couldn’t we split our teams out?” Goro brought up an interesting proposal “I could lead one whilst you lead another.”

Ren waved it off quickly “We could, but we’d be spread too thin. It’s best to have a few in reserve for now.” The brown-haired boy nodded and didn’t push further.

“Alright, our first initial roster will be.” Ren paused for a moment, fully intending to milk this for what it’s worth.

“Skull.” the blonde jumped and pumped his fist in the air.

“Panther.” she grabbed Ryuji by the ear and forced him to calm down and stay still.

“Cloud.” Shiho nodded subtly, much less animated than her previous two teammates.

“Crow will be leading you on the field.”

“…and Ghost providing support.” Mishima yelped from nowhere.

“Mona and I will handle medical issues and we’ll tag in when things get dire.” Morgana nodded sagely in agreement. Ren was still surprised at how agreeable the not-cat was this time. He remembered Morgana to be a much more vitriolic member of the team, especially regarding Ryuji… this time however he hasn’t gotten into a verbal fight with anyone just yet. Ren didn’t think of it anymore as he took the wheel behind bus-Morgana.

“Joker…?” their leader pushed hard on the gas at the first sight of a roaming shadow.

“Joker!?” their protests became much louder. Ren continued to ignore them.

Collision with the shadow was now imminent “Ahhh!” and only a mix of panicked and excited screaming could be heard from behind the wheel.

“Three enemies!” Ghost began scanning and relaying data as it came naturally to him “All Slimes! Resistant to Physical moves… Fire and Wind are their weakness!”

The three turned to Ann expectantly “I got this. Agi!” and she was happy to comply.

She downed one and continued to another “Carmen, again! Agi!” and did the same to two more as the four of them unleashed all they had against the downed slimes with pipes, swords and whips galore. The three slimes looked incredibly weakened yet they were bubbling with enough power that everyone in the party could notice.

Shiho’s concern was the first to be vocalized “Uh, Ghost? What are they doing?”

“It’s building up energy…? That slime is preparing to self-destruct! Defend yourselves, everyone!” the urgency in Mishima’s voice grew with every word. The active members all attempted to enter bracing positions as quickly as possible. They all managed to stay on their feet with a few scraps of injuries between all of them.

“That was a good first encounter for the day.” Morgana and Ren went to tend to everyone’s wound with their Persona.

“Man, that hurt!” Ryuji winced as Ren made him sit still.

Ren rolled his eyes at the blonde “What? You tapped out already?”

“No way!” too easy for Ren.


Fighting slimes became an easier endeavour for the group at every subsequent encounter. Though one wouldn’t be off base to assume Ann had taken it a bit too far at incinerating the slimes.

They had finally reached their destination if the odd black and red swirling portal was any indication “Dude, the hell is this…? It’s wavy and shit.”

“Nakanohara should be up ahead… Mona?” Ren looked for a second opinion.

“I sense our target up ahead.” to which he confirmed. “Are we going in, Joker?”

Ren just nodded and slammed on the gas straight into the portal. The world distorted or distorted even more given the nature of Mementos, and they were brought into a wholly new area.

“Something’s there!” Ghost called everyone's attention to a human’s shadow in the distance.

Goro frowned at the sight of their target “That seems to be Nakanohara’s Shadow.”

“Lemme see. Some front desk guy at City Hall became a stalker, right?” Ryuji recalled though his apprehensiveness appeared as if he was looking for an affirmation.

“I don’t know how much evil he’s done, but we have to do something if he’s bothering other people.” Ann grimaced. The man had to be stopped after all.

Ren nodded and swung his arm forward to prompt everyone to follow him “All right, we’ll go talk to him.”

As soon as they were in the view of the shadow, it snapped its attention to the Phantom Thieves “Who are you!?”

“Are you that stalker!? Haven’t you ever stopped to consider how your ex feels?” Ann stepped forward.

“She’s my property! I can do whatever I want with her!” Nakanohara’s shadow held his ground “It’s not like she didn’t treat me like a plaything! What’s wrong with me doing the same!?”

“You can’t treat someone like shit just ‘cause they did it to you! What a load of crap…” Ryuji was having none of it.

“Bastards like you…! We’ll change all your hearts so you can’t harm anyone anymore!” Shiho declared and pulled out her titanic sword at the ready.

“There are millions of people far worse than me!” Nakanohara deflected and called a name that was all too familiar “What about Madarame…? He stole everything from me, but you’re letting him off the hook!?”

‘Madarame… this guy must’ve been the one that gave us the tip face to face.’ he tried to recall the memory where Mishima made them meet up with a similar-looking man asking them to steal Madarame’s heart and help a student still in his clutches. The thought of Yusuke still being under the exploitative thumb of Madarame nearly made Ren’s blood boil.

Ren then recalled the even more terrifying detail that Nakanohara knew their faces in that previous life ‘I better tell Mishima not to accept things like those in the future… way too risky.’

“…Madarame? The artist…?” Goro turned to Ren searching for clarity. Ren just nodded his head to affirm whatever suspicion the brown-headed boy had.

“Now that I have what’s rightfully mine… I’m not going to let you take it away…” Nakanohara transformed into a short, stocky demon with orange skin that Ren remembered was named Obaryion “Look… this is a winner-takes-all world. Come fight me and I’ll show you what I mean!”

“Ghost?” Goro called out to their navigator, awaiting instructions on how to best approach the fight.

Mishima didn’t skip a beat with his response “Already on it! No resistances detected but a notable weakness to electric-type attacks!”

“Alright my time to shine!” Ryuji smiled and stepped up “Captain Kidd!”

A blast of lightning descended on his enemy and was enough to knock Shadow Nakanohara off his feet. They couldn’t press their advantage for long as the quickly got back on his feet and began to go on a rampage of his own.

“Guh, this guy’s annoyin’!” the blonde

Shiho rushed in with her titanic sword in tow and swung it overhead to great effect. The blow straight to the demon’s bowl-cut head looked like it hurt. Hard. Nakanohara wasn’t one to take and not give, however, as he gave Shiho a particularly painful slam to the ground in return for her trouble. Ann gave Shiho a helping hand up which the black-haired girl ignored, rising to her feet by herself.

“Keep it up!” Mishima encouraged the thieves, noting that Nakanohara was already more than halfway to being defeated by his readings. “Just one more big blow, that should do it!”

Goro began assessing the drained thieves from their previous battles with the slimes in the area. Even he was somewhat drained from it and going into a particularly long fight with the man’s shadow was ill-advised given the damage Shiho had withstood at the last swing.

“Getting close is too risky… let’s finish this with our guns!” all the thieves complied and pulled out their weapons and let it rain lead on Nakonahara. It was finally enough to knock the shadow out and return him to his somewhat pitiable human form.

“I-I was wrong… please forgive me…” the older man got on his knees “That evil teacher used me, then threw me out on the street. That’s what caused my fixation on her…”

“Madarame, the artist?” Goro asked their target directly this time.

“That Madarame guy he was talkin’ about earlier?” Ryuji thought of his earlier outburst as well.

“Yeah… I just didn’t want anyone to throw me out again…” Nakanohara whimpered.

“So, some other selfish person was making you suffer too…” Shiho turned to look away, thinking of the cruel similarities he shared with Mishima. ‘Would he have gone this far if we let him be…?’

“Still, you shouldn’t have dragged an unrelated woman into your mess.” Ann chided him.

“Yes, I know that now. I’ll put an end to my love for her…” he finally sounded genuinely repentant.

“…Hey, you can change people’s hearts, right?” the older man couldn’t look them in the eye, shame still shackling him to his core.

“In that case…” the shadow was fading already becoming more transparent as he attempted to ask for a final request “Won’t you change Madarame’s heart!? Before more people fall victim to him…”

Ren, thinking of Yusuke, replied immediately “We will…”

“So Nakanohara had a change of heart, right?” Mishima wondered aloud, not using his Persona to communicate this time.

“He will, and the person who posted his name online might post again if that’s the case.” Ren assured everyone.

“Either way, trainin’ against shadows down here’s the best! It’s great prep for our next target!” Ryuji was perhaps a bit too excited at the prospect.

“It’s also nice to be able to give courage to the people who post their problems online.”

Morgana coughed loudly to call everyone to attention “Before we leave, I want to show everyone something.”

“There’s even more to this place!?” whether Ryuji was annoyed or excited was anyone’s guess.

“There’s something I want to check further down.” Morgana clarified his intentions and went ahead with Ren following unquestioningly behind.

“You’ve been here before, right? What about a map?” the blonde boy said what was on everyone’s mind at the moment.

“Mementos is the public’s collective cognition… so it shifts in form just as much as they do.” he explained whilst Ren was dodging every shadow with his wild driving.

“Which is to say, a lot?” Goro continued for Morgana, though he ended it in an inquiry.

“Pretty much. The paths practically change every time we enter them.” they found the stairs down quickly after exchanging a few more words on the bus.

“This looks like a dead end…” Shiho commented.

“Heh… just watch. This is no ordinary wall.” Morgana scoffed and approached the wall with his paw extended forward. The odd wall retracted and revealed a new set of escalators to which they could descend further down.

The Metaverse Navigator also chipped in on everyone’s phone “A new area has been confirmed in the depths. Updating guidance information.”

“This didn’t open before when you were by yourself then, Morgana?” Goro brought up his line of thinking to everyone’s attention.

The not-cat shook his head “Nope stayed closed…”

“And this place is the collective cognition of everyone.” the not-detective continued with his reasoning. “So, something must’ve changed with that—”

“Could it be us? Kamoshida’s case did make it pretty big on the news.” excitement caused Ryuji to cut off his senpai. Though Goro didn’t seem to particularly mind.

“Possibly, we should know if we keep going deeper.” and that they did.

An odd scene awaited them as the descended as a small boy in what could only be described as having grey hair in the shape of a cracked half eggshell and distinctive yellow eyes. He wore a faded white raincoat and matching boots with star and moon patterns scattered around it and had a pair of goggles wrapped around his neck.

“Ah, a flower…” he turned the floating ‘flower’ into a tall glass drink and took a sip “Mm, tasty!”

Behind the boy was an even more odd sight with a small open-top blue car that was seemingly fit for the boy. The back of the vehicle had an assortment of objects piled up with seemingly little rhyme or reason. One would not be wrong to call it junk at first glance, or on their second pass either.

“Wha—” Ren for the first time in a while, was as dumbfounded as his team ‘This guy wasn’t in Mementos before… right?’

“Oh, hello!” the small boy only noticed the thieves after he’d finish taking his sip “Who are you?”

“We were going to ask you the same thing…” Morgana grimaced at the sight of the kid.

“Oh, sorry… it’s common courtesy to introduce oneself first before asking someone for their name. I’ve studied this before…” the odd boy thought aloud “Thank you for reminding me… Mr. Racoon? No… maybe Mr. Cat?”

“Why are you confused? Neither is correct!” Morgana protested indignantly.

Ryuji was the one to comfort the not-cat “Relax Mona, it’s normal to mistake what you are…” somewhat poorly.

“My name is Jose. I am looking for flowers.” the boy introduced himself and what he was seeking.

“Flowers, down here?” Goro raised the oddity of it all.

“Yep, I’m quite surprised to find normal humans down here though!” said surprise was conveyed clearly on his face though it was quickly replaced with a contemplative expression “I suppose lots of people do come down here…”

“We are kinda special… wait, no we’re talking about you!” Morgana almost got distracted “What are you?”

“You said something about looking for flowers? Was that drink you made what you do with them?” Ann queried.

“You’re right, pretty lady!” Jose bright attitude was not lost of the thieves. They would’ve fawned over the boy had they not met him under the oddest circumstances in the depths of Mementos.

“I need to study humans and collect a whole bunch of those flowers.” the gray-haired child explained pragmatically.

“Study, you mean like drinking that juice is studying?”

“That’s right.” Jose nodded.

“Drinking flower juice to study… I wish I could do that!” Ryuji was promptly elbowed on his sides by Goro.

“Can you help me with my studying? I need a bunch more of those flowers… would that be alright?”

“I’m sure I have something useful to give to you in return.” everyone glanced at the pile that had accumulated on the back of his car.

“That doesn’t sound too bad.” Shiho shared her thoughts.

“W-wait! Are we just going to do stuff for a kid we met in Mementos we barely know?” Morgana’s previously barely hidden exasperation was on full display.

“What’s the problem? Aren’t you pretty weird yourself, Morgana?” Mishima immediately covered his mouth after he blurted that comment out.

“Grr…” the not-cat just grumbled at the team.

“Collecting flowers doesn’t sound too much of a hassle.” Ann said.

“Is that really the only reason?” Ryuji sighed, having some guessed on what made her a bit more agreeable than normal.

“He called me cute!” she admitted easily, sounding extra chipper.

“I think you're cute too…” Ryuji grumbled underneath his breath, low enough for no one to hear.

“What was that Skull?” the blonde girl had barely caught Ryuji’s lips move at the short moment.

Ryuji turned away, hiding whatever his face has going to betray “N-nothing, I ain’t saying it again if you didn’t hear it!”

Ignoring the two, Goro turned towards their leader “So, Joker… will we accept his offer?”

“I don’t see why we shouldn’t” he didn’t see any reason to not help. Especially thinking back to Messiah’s words on new faces. He felt his teams ease around Jose

“Thanks, big bro!” Jose beamed at Joker’s approval.

“No! We don’t even know who or what he is!” Morgana aired his disproval once more “And you, don’t just say ‘thanks’!”

“Mr. Cat… are you tired? You're looking kinda mad.” Jose tilted his head, confused at what could possibly be bothering the cat.

“I’m not a cat!” Morgana repeated his most well-practiced phrase at this point.

“Oh, you’re hungry. I know that feeling! I’ve studied it before, here take this.” Jose started rummaging in the back of his car.

“I think it's supposed to help” Jose hands Morgana… a cookie? Definitely a cookie.

“Thanks for agreeing to help me! If you see me around, say hi! I don’t meet too many people down here.” Jose got behind the wheel of his appropriately sized car.

“I’ve studied greetings and goodbyes as well… I think I should say ‘farewell’ right now?”

“Farewell!” and the boy just disappeared on top of his wheels.

“That was odd…” everyone nodded at Mishima’s comment.

“He wasn’t a shadow; my readings didn’t give off anything like that…” Mishima added for the team’s benefit.

Shiho thought about it hard, her chin resting on the back of her hand “But he says he’s studying humans. So, he isn’t a human either?”

“He’s definitely not like us, that’s for sure!” Morgana grumbled out as the team started making their way to the exit.

“Big bro, everyone! Wait!”

Everyone turned around to see the same child on his little car appear from nowhere “Jose?”

“How do I put this… I picked up something when I was here earlier.” he rummaged through his belonging in the back of his car once more and pulled out a dimly glowing blue object in the shape of the star.

“Huh, what is it?” Ren asked the question on everyone’s mind.

“It’s a star! It’s in the shape of a star!” he cheerfully pointed out as if it was the most obvious thing about it.

Ren so wanted to be snarky… but found it impossible against the boy “What about it?”

“Don’t humans make wishes to stars? I believe I studied that before too…”

“Stars grant wishes, right?” he reached out both of his hands, waiting for Ren to take the star “Maybe this one will too!”

“It’s sparkly and pretty too! You guys want it, don’t you?” Ren nodded. He wasn’t sure if he did want it, but he was sure that he didn’t want to disappoint the cheery boy.

“That’s what friends are for! I studied that too!” Jose got behind the wheel of his car for the second time and drove away once again.

“Well, I’ll be going now… again, bye!”


Sunday, 8th of May 2016
Cafe LeBlanc, Yongen-Jaya
Morning

[PT#H]

Ryuji           Hey Renren, have you wished for anything with that star yet?

Ann             Yeah, I’ve been curious too!

Shiho          What wish would you make, Ren?

I’d wish for you to pass your tests next week. Ren

Goro            I would too, Ryuji and Ann’s record don’t bode well.

Yuuki          Did you already use the wish?

What? Of course not. Ren

I wouldn’t waste it on that. Ren

And, that’s if it worked that easily. I doubt it’d be that simple. Ren

Shiho          That is true.

Goro            The tests are important, however.

Goro            Have you been studying, Ryuji? Ann?

Ryuji           Hey, why you gotta single us out senpai?

Ann             Yeah, it's not fair!

Goro            Well you two are the only one in this chat on the verge of failing.

Shiho          Goro-senpai has you there Ann.

Yuuki          What if we all study together later today?

Ryuji           Yeah! Hey, is everyone up for it?

I’m down. Ren

Ann             Well, passing is important. I’ll go.

Shiho          I can come too.

Goro            Apologies everyone but I can’t make it.

Goro            Though I doubt I’d be much help given the difference in material.

Yuuki          So that’s all five of us?

Yuuki          Where should we meet up?

Goro            Why not Café LeBlanc at Yongen-Jaya?

What the hell! Ren

Ryuji           Never been there before, is it good?

Goro            It is, they have an excellent part-timer too.

Goro            And I’m sure Boss would appreciate the business.

Goro, just shut up. Ren

Ann             What’s wrong Ren?

Ann             Would Goro’s suggestion be a problem?

No… I’ll meet you guys there later. Ren


The doors to Café LeBlanc opened to a group of four teenagers. Ryuji came in first and took a deep breath, followed quickly behind by Ann. Shiho followed soon after with Mishima in tow.

“Ah, what a nice smell…” Ann inhaled in the authentic café air.

Ryuji tries to find the right words, but it gets caught on his tongue “It looks so outdated… can’t say I hate it though.”

“I’m sure there’s a word to describe that…” Shiho catches on and jumps onto Ryuji’s train of thought.

“Old-school?” Mishima offers but shakes his head immediately in disapproval.

“I think you guys are looking for the word ‘retro’.” Ren comes down from his room.

Sojiro turns to his tenant and then to the kids his age “Hm, these your friends?”

“Yeah, is it alright if we study here until the evening?” Ren requested though he already knew Sojiro well enough that he’d be happy to oblige.

“That’s no issue.” the old man nodded, more than happy to oblige.

“I’ll make the this one on the house.” Sojiro began preparing coffee and called Ren out again “You’re helping though.”

“Ren, you work here?” Mishima asked though, by the look on everyone’s faces, they were thinking the same thing.

Ren just nodded to the question “We live here." Morgana didn’t catch the nod so he clarified.

Sojiro narrowed his eyes at Ren when he had heard the meowing from the bag “Uh, it’s okay…? They know about Morgana.”

“Hmph, alright just make sure no other customers catch him.” he returned to brewing coffee.

“You live in a café?” Shiho asked rhetorically, still finding their leader’s whole situation a bit out of this world.

“Dude, that’s awesome!” Ryuji boasted for his friend.

“It… is?” Ren was raised a single brow, unsure by what Ryuji exactly meant by awesome.

“Totally!” the blonde boy just reaffirmed it without expanding. Ren sighed, not really in need of a detailed explanation.

“Coffee’s ready.” Sojiro brought all four students to his attention.

Ann took the first sip “Wow… it’s delicious.”

“It certainly tastes better than what I get daily…” Mishima comments after taking his own sip.

“Huh, I’ve never liked coffee… but this is nice!” Shiho brightened after her drink, pleasantly surprised by the taste.

“Oh yeah, I remember now! I think I’ve seen LeBlanc mentioned in a magazine before…” Ann recalled.

Sojiro lightly chuckled and shook his head at the memory “That was a long time ago.”

“For real? Gimme a taste.” the blonde boy grabs the nearest cup next to him and gives it a taste.

“Ryuji!” Ann was agape in horror, though Ryuji barely took notice.

“Blech.” the taste took over for him too quickly for that “It’s so bitter! This has got to be cruel and unusual punishment!”

The owner chided lightly “Eh, I didn’t like coffee when I was your age either.”

“That was Ann’s cup…” Shiho whispered to Mishima.

“Wait, what?” the teal-haired boy quietly said back.

“…” Ann stayed silent, lucky enough to keep her beating heart in check.

“You have some good friends.” Sojiro cleared his throat at the awkward atmosphere and directed them elsewhere “Go up and take them to your room. No need to stay down here.”

“Ooh, I wanna see.” Ryuji hopped out of his seat in excitement.

“It’s only an attic.” Sojiro’s words were meant to temper expectations though it fell on deaf ears.

“Man, that taste just won’t leave my mouth…” Ryuji cleared his throat to no success at ridding the taste “Up these stairs?” He followed Ren’s lead up the flight of stairs leaving behind their bags downstairs.

Much to Morgana’s mewling chagrin “Hey! Joker! C’mon!”

“You do know what you did right?” ignoring the not-cat’s complaints, Ren whispers to Ryuji.

“…shut up.” Ryuji finally went red after holding it back for so long.

“Just checking…” Ren chuckled at his friend, wrapping one of his arms around the blonde’s neck.

Shiho and Mishima followed behind the two and giggled at the sight of Ren and Ryuji. The two of them had become fast friends since after Kamoshida’s change of heart. Other than Ren, Shiho was Mishima’s closest friend in the thieves and the one that treated him the kindest. The three had vacated the lower floors, with the last two actually bringing their bags along.

That left Ann as the last one downstairs.

“So, you’re uhh…” the old man fished for her name.

“Ann. Ann Takamaki.” she introduced herself cheerfully.

“Ann-chan, huh… That’s a nice name.” Sojiro smiled at her upbeat introduction “So… you and that other blonde?”

That managed to elicit a subdued response from her “…no.”

“Ah… I get it. I won’t say anymore.” Sojiro was a man of his word.

“Hey Ann, you gotta get up here! This place’s freakin’ insane!” Ryuji’s voice called out to her. She prepares to take her bag upstairs only to recognize both Ren’s and Ryuji’s bags being left behind.

“Sheesh, did they have to leave the Mona bag down here?” Ann just sighs, somewhat done with the two’s antics.

“Thank you, Lady Ann!” Morgana praised his saviour.

“Kid’s made himself some great friends.”


The hours passed by and the sun had almost completely disappeared from view. The sky was painted by the pale orange palette of the setting sun as it retreated from view.

“God… none of this is sticking…” Ryuji complained, trying to balance his pen on his nose instead of focusing on the paper before him.

“You can say that again…” Ann concurred with the boy, as she twirled the pen on her head instead.

“I’m pretty sure it's just you two.” Mishima offhandedly commented, having finished his revision work minutes earlier.

“The material isn’t supposed to be that hard, it's just the start of the year…” Shiho lamented on the ease of the tests they were facing. It was only going to get harder as the school year progressed.

Ren stopped the two from goading Ryuji and Ann too much “Don’t push them too hard, they’ll probably break and do worse on the tests if we do.”

“Hey, Ren!” Morgana who had been roaming around as he grew bored at their studying called out to him “Boss is calling for you.”

Sojiro’s voice reached him this time “You got another friend down here.”

‘Another…?’ Sojiro would’ve called Akechi by name… so ‘Kasumi?’

Ren climbed down the stairs by himself, leaving the four to study by themselves for the remainder of their study session. They were just about to wrap up anyways.

“Amamiya-senpai!” it was the familiar redhead that greeted him with a sunny disposition “I came here as you said!”

Ren smiled but his concern spilled into his voice “This late?”

“Gymnastics practice… didn’t go too well so I spent extra time practicing into the late hours.” her expression quickly became downtrodden.

‘Damn…’ Ren was at a loss of comforting words.

“So, who’s this one?” Sojiro quickly came to his rescue unknowingly.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” her expression lifted at the old man as she introduced herself “My name is Kasumi Yoshizawa.”

“Kasumi-chan, huh?” Sojiro smiled before something dawned in his mind “Wait…”

“Is something the matter?” Kasumi tilted her head in confusion. She turned to Ren, wondering if she did something wrong. The black-haired boy just shrugged nonchalantly.

“Oh, its nothing… I swear the news was…” Sojiro’s words wandered off to his thoughts.

“Anyway, what can I get you?” he grounded himself and awaited to take her order.

“Senpai recommended the curry here, so I had to come and check it out.”

“Hmm, are your friends hungry too? You’ve been studying for a while… it might be nice to have a meal.” Sojiro turned to Ren and wondered if he should prepare a big batch.

“I think we were just about to wrap up studying… dinner sounds great right now.” Ren confirmed.

“Alright, I’ll prepare curry for all six of you.” Sojiro got the apron and turned the stove on.

“All six?” Kasumi asked.

“Yeah, my friends are studying for the tests coming up this week. They’re upstairs.” Ren explained.

Kasumi’s worse a downcast expression at the information “Oh, I see… I hope I’m not intruding.”

“Never. You can talk to me whenever remember?” Ren put his arm on her shoulder in reassurance.

“Thanks, senpai.” her bright smile returned, and she took the opportunity to lean into him.

Unfortunately for both of them “Hey, Ren what’s taking so long—”

“For real!?” Ryuji just came down.

“Ryuji, what’s going on…?” Ann came swiftly downstairs to also come to the same scene.

“Whoa! Who’s she…?” Mishima and Shiho were last to descend but donned the same reaction as the previous two.

“Ah!” she jumped up from her seat and introduced herself “I’m Kasumi Yoshizawa, first-year!”

“Can you kids pipe down? It’ll be ready soon… sheesh.” Sojiro berated them all.

They apologized in unison before Ren asked the ones that just came from his room “Boss is cooking dinner for everyone here; you guys up for that?”

“Yeah! Studying’s been exhausting…” Ann groaned out as she stretched her arms out.

“Anyway… how’d you two come to know each other?” the thieves perked up in attention at Mishima’s question.

“Senpai escorted me to the station with his umbrella one day…” she regaled his friends with her lengthy tale “…and he wasn’t happy with my curry-flavoured bento and told me to come to taste the one Café LeBlanc had!”

“I’m really excited about it!” Kasumi was the only one left with a positive disposition at the end.

Ann and Ryuji glared daggers at their leader's direction while Mishima could only offer a disappointed shake of his head “Ren…”

“I can’t believe you Amamiya-san…” Shiho had distanced herself from him, refusing to use his first name.

“You are washing all these dishes tonight, kid!” even Sojiro joined in on the kick-Ren-down party.

“You’re sleeping early tonight Ren, think about what you’ve done.”


Monday, 9th of May 2016
3-B Classroom, Shujin Academy
Afternoon

Ken was fiddling with his phone as he had done ever since that strange malware-like program had appeared on it. He had attempted to delete the Metaverse Navigator multiple times from his phone but could not keep it off for long. It always returned no matter what he did. It was concerning, not just because an app that does that is somewhat terrifying, but also because it wasn’t his phone to break to begin with. Officially, it was one given to him by the Kirijo Group for his current mission in Tokyo.

“Amada-san?” Ken put his phone away at the sound of his name, it was his familiar seatmate in class.

“Niijima-san? What is it?” he asked politely.

“Have you taken any extracurricular activities yet?” the girl appeared impassive, trying not to give any outward weakness.

“No… I’m not really looking for any right now.” he was a bit too preoccupied with the wild goose chase he was being sent on.

Her face fell at the honest admission “I-I see.”

“I something the matter?” Ken didn’t miss a beat and caught on quickly.

“Well… I was thinking of inviting you to the student council…” Ken gave it some thought, easy access to the school roster might make identifying whoever the Phantom Thieves were easier if they were students.

Ken inquired for more “Oh, what brought this up?”

“Well, your background shows you’ve been in a student council since middle school…” he closed his eyes, he knew that would at least be part of it.

“We could use someone with that much experience.” she admitted.

“It really was nothing special… and aren’t you just one member of the council? What do the others think of this?” Ken heard from the rumoir mill of the school that the student council was particularly strict towards who it allowed on.

“Actually, the vice-president was the one who brought up the idea of inviting you.”

“The vice-president? Akechi-san?” Ken’s pictured the eerily similar looking teen he’d met at the park one day ‘He does seem somewhat suspicious… even just from my gut feeling…’

“If he was the one to recommend me… why not have him invite me as well?”

“I-I… need some help…” her façade of strength faded away and someone in search of any relief was in her place “and I’ve relied on Goro-kun for far too long now.”

Ken, for some reason, didn’t like what he saw at all… but he wouldn’t say yes to a request without hearing it out first “I see… well, you’ll have to tell me what you need help with, Niijima-san.” her following answer was too perfect for him.

“The Phantom Thieves.”

Chapter Text

Tuesday, 10th of May 2016
Student Council Room, Shujin Academy
Afternoon

Ken accepted the offer to join the student council from Makoto on the spot yesterday.

Though after entering the student council room and looking at the other two members before him, he wasn’t so sure if he should’ve been so eager.

“I’d like to welcome our newest member, Ken Amada.” Makoto had introduced him to the other two boys. There wasn’t applause nor any hint of surprise in either of the two as they continued with their own devices.

Ren was the first to glance at the newcomer before returning to his work “Huh, that was fast…”

“What do you mean, Amamiya-san?” Ken asked, unfamiliar with the casual tone the boy now took with him.

“You’re part of the council now, you can just call me Ren… Makoto made me do the same thing.” the black-haired boy was overtly casual with his invite, not even sparing Ken a glance when he gave the offer.

“And I just thought you’d think it over a bit longer… did you feel guilty over us just having three members before you decided to join?” Ren continued to prod.

Makoto shook her head at their former newest member “You don’t have to answer that Ken-kun…”

“C’mon, Makoto! You practically hooked my poor soul into this.”  

“You’re not a poor soul, Joker!” Morgana chipped in from the bag Ren had left in the back of the room.

“Was that… a cat?” Ken spoke up and Makoto herself was just as perplexed.

“Um… meow?” Ren offered weakly.

“Alright…” Goro just snickered whilst the other two members shifted uncomfortably in place.

“Thank you for accepting the offer, Ken-san.” Goro stood up from his seat and walked towards the newest member “Shouldn’t we celebrate a new member?”

Ren jumped out of his seat, his attention in the stranglehold of his senpais “What!? I didn’t get a party!”

“That’s a great idea, Goro-kun.” Makoto was in full agreement.

The bespectacled boy continued protesting “How is any of this fair?”

“Should we go tonight? We do have exams tomorrow…” it was Ken’s turn to raise concern for the lackadaisical of the Shujin student council.

“Hey, don’t ignore your cute kouhai!” Ren was no longer beyond pouting, and he did just that.

“Cute? Where?” Goro continued to relentlessly tease the secretary of the group.

Ren head slumped in defeat “That’s what got your attention!?”

“We can go to Café LeBlanc. I know the owner as well as someone who works over there.” the vice-president recommended; a coy look present in his eye.

“Goro!” Ren bit back harshly to no avail.

Makoto attempted to recall where she had heard that name before “LeBlanc…?”

“It’s at Yongen-Jaya, only a minute walk from the station.” Goro had known where to direct them already.

“Alright, let's meet up there after school!” the three 3rd year students left the room and Ren could only utter one phrase in defeat as he went to pick up the Mona bag.

“I hate you all so much…”


The trio of third-year students had just disembarked the train and made their way through the relatively small alleyways of Yongen-Jaya. Goro took the lead and guided them towards the quaint café in a quiet junction in the area.

“Where’s Ren?” Ken aired his worry for their youngest member.

“Maybe we shouldn’t have teased him too much…?” Makoto went along with Goro at the moment in the council room, but she felt guilt welling up inside her right now.

Goro was completely unperturbed “I’m sure he’ll be here soon.”

Goro opened the door to a mostly empty LeBlanc, only Sojiro behind the counter was inside the cafe. The old man turned his attention away from the news broadcast and towards the opening door to be greeted by a familiar face.

“Akechi-kun… and you brought new friends too?”

Goro took a seat in one of the booths and invited the other two to do the same “Slow business day, Boss?”

Sojiro’s brows furrowed at the light-hearted jab “Don’t be cheeky, what’ll you be having?”

“We’ll have curry for four.” Goro ordered for them.

“Four?” Sojiro counted three kids, including the one he recognized.

“Oh, Ren should be joining us.” Goro clarified for his caretaker.

“Is he now…” Sojiro called out, his head tilted towards the staircase “Oi, kid! Get down here!”

The familiar bespectacled boy descended from upstairs with his casualwear covered by an apron. He gave Goro a harsh yet quick glare before heading over to the kitchen stove, already knowing what was being asked of him.

“You’ll be making the curry… you’ve been practicing since then, right?”

Ren gave a curt nod and got to work “Got it…”

Sojiro turned away from his ward and to the three who had taken the seats “So, you’re more of his friends?”

“I’m Makoto Niijima!” the diligent-looking student of the three introduced herself.

“And I’m Ken Amada. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Goro’s oddly similar lookalike did the same.

“We’re more here for a celebration, for our new members.” Makoto expanded much to one of their member’s chagrin.

“Stupid senpais…” said member grumbled loud enough for all of them to hear. The three of them broke out in an uncertain smile, worry for their upcoming meal palpable on their face.

“He’s new, but he’s a natural at this. Wouldn’t let him cook for customers otherwise…” Sojiro assured all of them. He could’ve sworn the kid’s made curry like this before too by the way he cooks it.


The wait for the meal was uneventful with the student council trio making idle chatter to pass the time. There wasn’t much of interest exchanged as they continued to inquire the owner of the café about Yongen-Jaya and its little attractions. Their conversation was interrupted by Ren announcing that their order had been completed.

“Here’s your meal.”

“Our meal.” Makoto corrected.

Ren wore a puzzled expression “Huh?”

“Come sit with us, were all members of the student council, that’s what this ‘party’ is about isn’t it?” the president clarified for him. She moved in deeper into the booth to give Ren room to sit. The bespectacled boy turned to the owner who scratched the back of his head with a smile.

“Go ahead kid, I’ll wash up and close early.”

Ren returned the smile “Thanks.”

He took his seat next to Makoto and prepared to chow down on his cooking alongside the rest of them. Ren wouldn’t openly admit it, but he was burning with pride at the curry he had prepared. It had, after all, ruined all other curries for him and expected it to do the same to others who tasted it.

Makoto, still feeling somewhat guilty for being complicit in Goro’s joke earlier, opened a conversation “You work here, Ren?”

“I live here.” Ren completed, feeling as if he’s had this conversation before.

“Here, as in the attic?” it was Ken’s turn to be shocked, the secretary of the group surely was interesting.

“Yeah, want to come take a look later?” the bespectacled boy offered but all three shook their heads in unison, enjoying the meal he had provided them in the meanwhile.

“Maybe another time, we do have exams starting tomorrow.”


Wednesday, 11th of May 2016
2-B Classroom, Shujin Academy
Afternoon

The first days of tests had finally come for Ren and it was a bore, Morgana’s sneaky help from under his desk was unnecessary as he had recalled most of these answers before. Studying with the four on Sunday just made it much clearer in his mind. Finishing earlier than anyone else. His eyes wandered off the paper on this desk and onto the person seated before him. Ann Takamaki was especially fidgety today and it didn’t look like it was just from the test.

‘I should talk to her after this…’


The first batch of tests had concluded, and Ren felt no worse for wear. The same could not be said for the girl seated in front of him.

“Ann?” he decided to call out to her now.

“Huh, oh hey Ren…” even her tone communicated an unnatural detachment.

“Tell me what’s bothering you…” Ren didn’t mince words and called her out.

“Huh?” that succeeded in pulling her out of whatever minor stupor she trapped herself in.

“You’ve been fidgeting since tests started this morning and I could tell it wasn’t from the questions.” Ren noted.

“H-how? Wait you were watching me ever since this morning? Couldn’t you just have focused on your own paper?” she defensively rose from her seat.

“The tests were a breeze, at least for me.” he smugly waved it away “And, we’re talking about you.”

“We are…?” Ann turned her gaze away, uncertain if she wanted to have this conversation right now. Or at all.

Ren sighed, not wanting to beat around the metaphorical bush any longer “It has something to do with Shiho, doesn’t it?”

That caught her attention as she snapped her head back to Ren “How do you know—”

“It was clear enough from how all four of you were on Sunday.” Ren noted how the two had acted strangely during the group’s study session “You barely talked to her… she’s supposed to be your best friend, right?”

“…” Ann had no rebuttal. She merely bit her lip, frustrated at both herself for not knowing what to do and Ren for reminding her of that fact.

“She talked more to Mishima than she did to you during that entire study session too.” he added. Ann felt that sting and attempted to nurse whatever mental wound that inflicted with her arm.

“I messed up, okay! Is that what you wanted to hear?” she shouted loud enough for the few remaining students who hung in 2-D after class to turn their heads and pitch in amongst themselves.

“She’s snapping at a member of the student council?”

“Isn’t he a delinquent? What if he does something to her?”

“Is that supposed to be some kind of lovers quarrel?”

“Take it outside…”

“Well, yes.” Ren did his best to ignore the offbase rumours as he’d done so many times before “But, I’m more curious about how I can help.”

“You don’t want things to keep going the way they are, do you?” Ren reminded her of what she still wanted.

“No!” Ann was quick to agree.

“Then, tell me what went wrong.”


[Joker]

I am thou, thou art I
Thou hast acquired a new vow.

It shall become the wings of rebellion
that breaketh thy chains of captivity.

With the birth of the Lovers Persona,
I have obtained the winds of blessing that
shall lead to freedom and new power…


“Okay…” she finally relented, her shoulders relaxing unconsciously.

“I tried apologizing to Mishima-kun when you told me to but got myself caught in a horrible misunderstanding.” Ann began regaling what had occurred on the 30th of April.

“I ended saying some horrible things to both of them…”

“I see, I can guess where this leads to.” Ren pondered with his hand wrapped on his chin “You just need to apologize to Mishima, right?”

Ann’s eyes widened in surprise “How’d you know—” but Ren cut her off before she could even continue.

“Eh, it's easy enough to piece through… especially with how she’s become Mishima’s closest friend in the thieves because no one else would stand up for him.” he explained how obvious it was that probably Ryuji would’ve picked up on it… eventually.

“I’ll tell you the same thing I did before.” he reiterated without judgement or bias; voice completely absent of any prejudice of the girl “Apologize to Mishima.”

“But, what if he…” she trailed off, fearful of rejection and ruining things irreparably somehow.

Ren chuckled lightly “I think you’re overthinking this… Mishima isn’t scary and would more than appreciate knowing he’s welcome to the thieves.”

“But—” Ren interrupted her once again. He prepared to leave as he had nothing more to add to their exchange but a few final words of encouragement.

“No stalling this out, okay? I’m sure Shiho’s waiting for you too.”


Thursday, 12th of May 2016
2-B Classroom, Shujin Academy
Afternoon

Another boring day of tests for Ren though he could tell that Ann was significantly less fidgety today. She still looked somewhat stressed, but it was directed towards the paper on her desk instead of being wholly disconnected from the exams altogether like she was yesterday.

‘She’ll pass… probably.’ Ren was now worried about other things. Much better than worrying about the resilience of her bonds though.

“Mishima-kun!” Ann called out to the teal-haired boy. She was resolute in her desire to convey what she had failed to do so previously.

“Takamaki-san?” Mishima replied, hesitant at the sight of the girl’s approach. The Phantom Thieves were an odd bunch and while Suzui-san made him feel the most welcome, Takamaki-san was on the opposite end of the spectrum.

“It’s nothing like that… I’d just like to apologize!” she bowed her head.

“Apologize…?” Mishima’s mouth was agape at the admittance.

“The way I jumped to conclusions at the roof… and how I treated you when we escaped the Palace…” she began trailing off all her offenses against the boy before her.

Mishima rose from his seat, being plenty embarrassed by Ann’s longwinded apology “Ah, don’t… that’s unnecessary Takamaki-san!”

“Don’t call me that, call me Ann instead!” she roped him in insistently. Smiling at her invitation to him.

“Uh…” it wasn’t so much that the boy didn’t want to call her that. Mishima just felt unprepared and unworthy to call her that… yet.

“Can I call you Yuuki too?” Ann continued, not sensing an inch of his apprehension.

“That’s… fine, Ann.” Mishima finally relented to her pace and returned the smile.

Ren smiled and walked out of classroom 2-D as Ann’s apology quickly turned into a normal conversation between the two. He felt those two would come to an understanding soon enough and Shiho should come soon after by the look on the pair’s faces.


Friday, 13th of May 2016
Outside Nurse's Office, Shujin Academy
Afternoon

The third day of exams had come and gone much quicker than the others. Ren would’ve gone straight home if a troubling sight hadn’t entered his vision. Yoshizawa looked positively distraught outside the school’s nurse’s office, pacing back and forth with no apparent reason.

Ren called her to attention “Yoshizawa?”

“Amamiya-senpai!” Kasumi stopped in place and turned to the familiar tone she had come to associate with her Senpai. She turned on her heel, ashamed to have been seen in such a state by her Senpai.

“Is something the matter?” his tone was as gentle as the grip that took hold of her arm as she attempted to flee.

“…I thought today was supposed to be the day.” Kasumi put up no fight and willingly relented.

She leaned against Ren as she continued explaining what had transpired “My counsellor, Maruki-sensei was supposed to introduce himself as the student counsellor for Shujin Academy.”

‘Counsellor? I suppose we could’ve used one last time around…’ Ren absentmindedly thought before shaking it away to refocus on the girl in need before him.

“They told me he apparently canceled last minute though.” there was a bite in her tone that told him she didn’t believe it was that simple. Whoever ‘they’ were was not one who Kasumi thought of very highly.

“But that didn’t sound like him! He was looking forward to helping everyone out like he did with me…” disbelief at the situation and faith in the mysterious Maruki-sensei shone through her eyes and voice.

“You really look up to this Maruki-sensei, huh?” he began leading her somewhere else where the two could take a seat.

“Maruki-sensei has been helping me since before I came to Shujin.”

“He helped me…” she choked between her words, her eyes beginning to well up with tears “get through… a really tough time…”

“You don’t have to talk about it.” Ren caressed her head, calming her somewhat as the tears had yet to fall.

“N-no… I need to speak about it with someone.” despite his attempts, a single tear rolled down her cheek. The girl’s face begged him to accept whatever request she would place forth “…if Maruki-sensei isn’t going to be here… then will you let me confide in you even for just this moment, Senpai?”

“Ok.”


[Joker]

RANK UP! Faith Confidant has reached Rank 3.


“Senpai… I have a sister—” she bit her tongue to remind herself of the truth “I had a sister.”

‘Oh… oh no…’ Ren was quick to catch onto the subtle change in words. Whoever this sister was… she was gone.

“We promised we would take the gymnastics world by storm together…”

“…however, she died in an accident this spring.” Kasumi broke out into audible sobs at the memory.

“I get anxious when I think I can’t fulfil the promise we made to each other…” she grabs hold of her Ren’s arm with both of her hands.

“Without Maruki-sensei’s help… I would’ve given up on our dream right there or worse…”

“Kasumi…” Ren muttered, lost on what would be considered comforting words at this junction.

“And without Maruki-sensei here… I feel like I’m falling into the same holes I did before.”

“I don’t know what I can do…” the bespectacled boy couldn’t help but lean into her forehead at his own admission “But, I’ll be here by your side.”

“Thank you, Senpai.”


Saturday, 14th of May 2016
Aoyama Itchome Station, Aoyoma Itchome
Morning

All five members of the Phantom Thieves in their second-year were gathered outside the station on their way to Shujin. They all decided to ride together to Shujin on their final day of exams to share in the success and misery… mostly the inevitable misery. Disembarking off the train led to the Aoyama Itchome platform where people didn’t care whether the bags came to clash with each other, earning Ren a complaint from his sole passenger.

“Hey! Watch it!” oops, all six members of the Phantom Thieves including the one that lived in Ren’s bag.

Ann was being particularly fidgety today, constantly checking behind her for something.

“Something wrong, Ann?” Mishima asked her, to the surprise of Shiho.

“N-no, it’s nothing… thanks, Yuuki.” now it was Ryuji’s turn to be surprised ‘Yuuki?’

‘This seems familiar…’ Ren recollection brought him to the local artist on the Phantom Thieves ‘it's about time for Yusuke to show up…’

“Oh my god! That guy got off…” Ann panicked “Isn’t this bad?”

“Who?” Shiho immediately started searching for who Ann could be referring to.

Ryuji yawns loudly distractingly enough to elicit Ann’s ire “Hey at least act like you care!”

“I do, just tired… c’mon…” he grabs Ann by her wrist and hurried both of them up the escalator.

“Hey! What’re you planning, Ryuji?” he just winked at the rest of the thieves as he set it in motion.

Ann stood in the open, her back against the stairs leading into Aoyama Itchome station. The mysterious stalker that Ren had easily identified as the one who bore the codename ‘Fox’ in the Phantom Thieves. The boy approached Ann’s back with his arm reaching out only to be interrupted by the flanking duo of Ryuji and Shiho.

Ryuji immediately dropped his suspicions when he saw the boy “Hey uh, are you sure it’s him… or are you just that self-conscious?”

“Not that—” Ann was quickly interrupted by the unforeseen boy.

“Is there something you want?”

“That’s my line! You were the one stalking me!” Ann immediately rebutted.

“Stalking you? That’s outrageous.” he denied swiftly but with poise, keeping his voice level the entire time.

“I—" the blonde girl was once again interrupted, this time by her friend.

“We know you’ve been following her the entire time!” Shiho quickly leaped to her friend’s defence, knowing full well she wouldn’t accuse anyone of stalking without reason.

“That’s because…” before the boy could begin explaining a car stopped by them. The window rolled down to reveal an old yet familiar man for both Yusuke and Ren.

“My goodness, I had wondered why you left the car.” the familiar visage of Madarame entered Ren’s vision and he couldn’t help but feel the frustration wash over him again “So this is where your passion led…”

“All is well that ends well… hahaha…” the old man laughed at his own joke.

“I saw you from the car… and couldn’t help myself from chasing after you.” the blue-haired boy began explaining “I didn’t even notice the calls from Sensei… but thank goodness, I caught up to you.”

“Ok…” Ryuji just eyed the dude cautiously. He did sound like a stalker… but he didn’t sound entirely bad?

“What?” Shiho voiced Ann’s thoughts for her as the blonde girl had been stunned silent by the admission of the boy.

“You’re the woman I’ve been searching for all this time! Please, won’t you—” 

“D-dude! You just met her, you can’t just conf—” Ryuji jumped in to interrupt only to be ignored.

“—be the model for my next art piece!?” the blue aired boy finished.

“Model?” Ann asked incredulously.

“All that I’ve drawn till now is lacking, but I feel a passion from you unlike anyone else.”

“This man’s highly suspicious…” Mishima whispered to Ren’s ear as they watched things unfold from the sidelines.

“Ain’t this a recruit for some shady business?” Ryuji backhandedly commented.

“Will you cooperate with me? What do you say?” the unforeseen boy ignored Ryuji’s comments.

“Hold your horses! Who’re you anyways?” Ryuji was getting tired of this tiptoeing and got in between Ann and the unintroduced boy.

“Oh, where are my manners? I’m a second-year at Kosei High’s fine-arts division.” the boy finally decided to introduce himself “My name is Yusuke Kitagawa.”

“I’m Madarame-sensei’s pupil, and I am being allowed residence at his place.” his introduction continued, about the sensei that was still listening in inside the car “I’m striving to become an artist.”

“Huh!? Do you mean THAT Madarame? The one who was on ‘Good Morning Japan’ the other day?” Ann was flabbergasted at the admission. This stalker being acquainted with such a bigshot artist was not what she was expecting to encounter on the last day of their exams.

“The very same.”

“You know who that is?” Ryuji asked, not really getting what they were going at.

“He was introduced as a super-famous Japanese-style artist who’s been recognized all over the world.”

Mishima’s eyes widened realizing the link between art and the old man “But didn’t we hear that name in Mementos?”

Ren just nodded silently, confirming Mishima’s suspicions. ‘Well, we met our next target already.’

“Yusuke!” Madarame called impatiently from inside the car.

“I’m sorry Sensei. I’ll be right there!”

“That man in the car is Madarame…?” Shiho found it difficult to match the famous artist Ann described to the unassuming man in the car.

“Madarame-sensei’s exhibition will begin at the department store near the station tomorrow.”

“I’ll be there to help out on opening day. Please come by.”

“It’d be great if you could give me your answer in regard to being a model then…”

“I bet you have no interest in the fine arts, but I’ll give you four tickets too.” Yusuke added, paying little mind to the friends Ann had surrounded herself with. Or that had surrounded her, given the situation.

“Well then, I hope to see you there tomorrow!” Yusuke bade her goodbye and entered Madarame’s car.

“That guy’s as easy to read as a book.” Ryuji put both his hands behind his head before turning to Ann “You’re not plannin’ on goin’, are you?”

“…I think I will.” that drew shock from Ryuji and Shiho. Though only the former aired his displeasure.

“Wha—” Ryuji began to protest a bit too eagerly. Unluckily for him, Ren had already cut him off.

“We’ll all be going… you all remember Nakanohara’s shadow, correct?” the memory of their encounter in Mementos was brought up and the artist Madarame that he had discredited as his final request.

“Let’s ascertain Madarame’s true nature…”


Sunday, 15th of May 2016
LeBlanc Attic, Yongen-Jaya
Evening

[PT#H]

Goro            Apologies once more for being unavailable for today’s excursion.

Goro            I was bound by other commitments.

Ryuji           Nah, you didn’t miss much.

Ryuji           Just got elbowed by the crowd a bunch.

Ryuji           If anything, you’re the lucky one Goro-senpai.

Yuuki          Yeah… we didn’t find much that could be considered incriminating.

Shiho          If anything… he seemed like a friendly old man.

Ann             Yusuke seemed to look up to him a great deal too.

Ann             From what he spoke to me.

We’ve dealt with Kamoshida before… Ren

 Don’t let outside appearances easily sway everyone. Ren

Ryuji           We know that… but what’re we supposed to do now?

Yuuki          We could go visit that ‘shack’ of his that he seemed proud of.

Shiho          Shack? Do you mean where he lives?

Ann             Does someone as famous as him really live in a shack?

We’ll see tomorrow. Ren

That’s not a problem for you, is it Goro? Ren

Or are you roped in for more obligations tomorrow? Ren

Goro            I should be available tomorrow…

Ann             Wait, tomorrow?

Ann             You want me to model that soon?

Shiho          Ann, we’re just visiting Kitagawa.

Ann             Ah, carry on then. Please ignore me.

Yuuki          Alright… but what if he doesn’t speak up?

That won’t be a problem. Ren

I’ve already inputted his name and shack into the MetaNav. Ren

He’s got a Palace. Ren

Ryuji           For real? Why don’t we just go straight there then?

Ann             But what about Kitagawa-kun… he seemed concerned for Madarame.

We’ll decide after we speak with him tomorrow. Ren

Shiho          But don’t we need a distortion as well?

Shiho          What could it be?

Yuuki          We can think about it when we’re there tomorrow.

Goro            Already taking the lead are we, Yuuki?

Yuuki          It’s not like that, honestly Senpai!

Goro, stop it. Ren

Everyone else, get ready for tomorrow. Ren

Shiho          This will be our second time inside a palace.

Shiho          To be frank, I’m excited.

Ann             Woah, Shiho. That’s pretty hardcore…

Ryuji           Nah, I get her… smashing shadows and putting shitty adults down.

Ryuji           Feels amazing!

Goro            Well put, Ryuji.

Yuuki          This’ll be my first time going in for real…

It’ll be fine. Ren

Ryuji           Yeah, ain’t no big deal.

[PT#H]


Monday, 16th of May 2016
Madarame's Shack, Shibuya
After School

The Phantom Thieves loud exchange outside of Madarame’s shack unfolded eerily similar to last even with the inclusion of Goro, Shiho, and Mishima. They had come to confront Yusuke about Madarame’s apparent treatment of him, but he shrugged it off as all part of slanderous lies. Madarame himself came out to see the ruckus and dismissed the troublemakers as kindly as he could, even scolding Yusuke about his attitude.

‘They must’ve heard some bad rumours about me and came worried for their friend.’  Madarame’s prophetic words played in Ren’s mind.

“Well, that was a bust…” Mishima lamented, nothing went well with their short exchange at the door.

“So, are we gonna break into his palace?” Shiho asked, excitement tinging her voice just a bit.

“I don’t know… he doesn’t seem like that bad of a man…” Ann was gracious enough to give Madarame the benefit of the doubt.

“People thought Kamoshida wasn’t a scumbag too….” Ryuji countered.

“Point.” the blonde girl shook her head, still on shaky ground on what to believe regarding Madarame.

“We’ll go inside his palace.” Ren took command of the conversation “If everyone still doubts what they see when we go inside…”

“Very well, so what shall we input.” everyone nodded though only Goro spoke up next.

Ren grinned and spoke out loud with the MetaNav open “Ichiryusai Madarame, Shack, and Museum.”

“Match Found. Beginning navigation.”


The ordinary suburban residential area transformed into the misshapen form of Madarame’s Palace. Its golden architecture piercing the sky in a vainglorious display.

‘Museum of Vanity…’

All the Phantom Thieves quickly acclimated to the change of surroundings except for the one that was left alone in Ren’s bag “Mona, get your game face on.”

“W-what? I wasn’t r-ready!” the not-cat slipped and tumbled out but landed on his feet regardless.

“You look fine from here.” Goro commented though he wasn’t even looking at Morgana. Instead, his eyes were fixated on the gaudy gold that plated the museum.

“Yeah, you’d figure it out one you notice you’re walkin’ on two legs.” Ryuji added. Morgana looked away in embarrassment at the jibe. 

Ann looked at Morgana’s tiny form and lifted him just a bit “So even Morgana can slip into the Metaverse without noticing it…”

“Yeah, the cognitive distortion in this area is minor enough to make it nearly unnoticeable.” Morgana expanded on how it occurred.

“Panther, codenames…” Shiho was the one to catch Ann out on her mistake.

“Sorry!”

“Anyway… what the hell is that!” Mishima, who was already invisible, exclaimed at the structure that was in full view of everyone.

“So, this is what he thinks his shack really is?” Ryuji found it hard to come to terms with the sheer gap between the unassuming shack and the overbearing museum.

“It’s so extravagant… to the point that it's gaudy.” Ann averted her eyes.

“It’s a museum… right?”

“This is Madarame’s?” Goro muttered to no one in particular. The brown-haired boy felt an oppressive air of nostalgia consume him since they all entered the Palace.

“A Palace is a scenery driven by desires…” Morgana added to everyone's benefit.

Ann gave it more thought but only returned confused “But why is it a museum though…? Isn’t his artwork already on display in reality?”

“How much more twisted can his desires be than an ordinary art exhibit?”

“Plagiarism… maybe the artwork inside is stolen?” Shiho offered.

Mishima gave her proposal some thought “It could be… but if it was, wouldn’t that still be the same in reality though?”

“No use in wondering outside.” Ren caught everyone's idle thoughts and directed them inside “Let's see it for ourselves.”

The Phantom Thieves scaled over the tall wall surrounding the museum with ease. Avoiding the cognition of guests at the front entrance was obvious enough for everyone, they were thieves after all not guests. Parkouring through any obstacle the garden outside eventually lead all of them onto the roof.

“Ooh! The skylight’s open! I think we can go in from here.”

“It’s a far drop… how will we get out?”

“Heh, leave it to us!” Ren and Morgana wore a smug smirk in unison “Infiltration tools are our responsibility, remember?”

The remaining five of them sweat dropped at the jaunty display the pair did. Though they did appreciate the preparedness that Ren and Morgana often brought to the situation. Everyone took turns rappelling down into what they had confirmed to be a quiet and empty room.

“…it’s quiet. Almost too quiet.” Morgana scoped out and waited for Mishima expectantly.

The invisible boy got the hint and did a preliminary scan “No shadows anywhere nearby.”

“H-hey… this…” Ann pointed at the eerie painting before them “It’s moving…”

“C’mon we’re in a Palace. That ain’t anything to be freakin’ out over.” Ryuji scoffed at Ann’s apprehensiveness. They were already experienced from Kamoshida’s Palace after all.

“Hm, the Palace reflects its ruler’s heart… We may want to check these paintings out.” Morgana noted.

“Oh hey, there’s some kinda explanation here… lemme see…” Ryuji approached the plaque “…it’s just someone's name and age? What the hell?”

“That can’t be the title of the painting…? Do you think it’s the artist’s name?” Shiho proposed though even her voice was shaky and uncertain.

“…” Goro stayed silent throughout ‘Why am I feeling… nostalgic, have I been here before? No…’

“Let’s check the other paintings too. I think there might be something important about them…”

The team splits into single units with the same purpose, to read every placard in the vicinity. They all returned with the same name and age combination with near-perfect structured similarity.

“Hey, this doesn’t make any sense… Madarame’s famous for having a variety of art styles…” Ann recalled what had been said on Good Morning Japan segment with

“But all the portraits here on display here look the same… This is way different from what was at the—” Ann was unceremoniously interrupted by Mishima calling everyone’s attention to the painting right next to where they had gathered.

“That’s!”

“Ain’t that the guy we saw in Mementos…? Y’know, the one who was shit-talkin’ Madarame…” the name was caught on the tip of Ryuji’s tongue.

“Natsuhiko Nakanohara… yeah it’s the same person.” Ren spoke up for the first time in a while to confirm everyone’s suspicion.

“Dude, I don’t get it! Why’s there a paintin’ of him in here!?” Ryuji approached his limit before legitimately freaking out.

“And more importantly, why’s his name written under it?” Shiho added.

“You’re right… doesn’t art usually have like, the title of the piece or the artist’s name?” Ann was trying to piece it together but came short as well.

“This is quite perturbing…” Goro had seemingly arrived at a conclusion but withheld from sharing it from everyone at the moment. ‘It’s still mere conjecture… for the moment.’

The thieves all continued deeper into the Palace hallways with the same kind of paintings lining the walls… until they came to a painting of someone very familiar.

“What…? No way!” it had just come to the attention of Ann.

“Hey isn’t this a painting of that guy…?” Ryuji as well.

“Yeah… the plaque says ‘Yusuke Kitagawa’. There’s no mistake here.” Shiho was the one who approached it and confirmed for them all.

“These paintings… are…?” Ann audibly gasped at the realization.

“They’re Madarame’s pupils…” Goro finally said what had been floating in everyone’s minds.

“But what does that mean…?”

Goro’s eyes darkened at the possibilities “I have a few theories…”

“None of em’ good?” Ryuji inquired.

“Not a single one.” Goro replied with a bit of a bite in his voice.

“Shit… what the hell kinda Palace is this?”

At Ryuji vulgar prompting, they all exited the exhibition hallway and entered the reception area. All of them except Ren and Morgana.

“Hey Joker, did you already come here before?” Morgana threw an unexpectedly hardball of a question to Ren out of the blue.

Ren gave his best poker face he could muster at the moment “Hmm? Why’d you ask that?”

Lucky for him, he’s pretty good at it “You’ve been awfully silent so far… and noting even made you flinch so far.”

“…I just… suspected the worse of Madarame given he already had a Palace.” he made it up as he went along… with some liberties given his knowledge of the man from the future-past “I’m not too surprised at the contents of his Palace.”

‘Damn… am I giving too much away?’ Ren couldn’t dwell on his thoughts for too long as Ryuji's booming voice came piercing through.

“Hey, that thing’s huge!” the statue of a golden spring with path-like-bands stretching forth from its base was in clear view for the thieves. On its surface were multiple people seemingly sprouting or falling from whatever spring had gushed forth. It was self-aggrandizement at its fines, at least to Ren’s own eyes.

‘Museum of Vanity indeed.’

“Skull, be a bit quiet.” Shiho chided the blonde boy as Ann approached the statue.

“The Infinite Spring?” Ann read the placard out loud. “A conglomerate work of art that the great director Madarame created with his own funds.”

“These individuals must offer their ideas to the director for the rest of their lives.” horror began etching itself onto her face at every line she had read.

“Those who cannot do so have no worth living!” Ann voice echoed the disgust she read with every new line.

The blonde girl finished reading gasped aloud, feeling as if the placard had confirmed her earlier suspicions “This… is about the plagiarism isn’t it?”

“And those people… are his students?” Shiho pieced it together with her.

“What an effin’ phony!” Ryuji could seemingly not help at keeping his voice down.

“His supposed pupils are his property. He’s more a slaver than an artist at any rate.” Ren added, letting his feeling be fully known to the party.

“Robbing both the ideas and the futures of talented youths…”

“So… those portraits on display is his cognition of all his students then?” Mishima feared that he would be right. Which he was, but he feared it nonetheless.

“They’re worth to him is about as much as the paintings he can squeeze out of them.” Morgana nodded at his own assessment, disgusted at the kind of two-faced man Madarame was capable of being.

“And that line about… having no worth living…” Mishima whispered as he felt a familiar kinship with the people in the paintings “Couldn’t that be about the abuse?”

“Getting tossed out after he’s wrung you dry…” Goro gritted the words through his teeth. The third-year felt an unknown rage welling inside of him, he had been this mad before but could not recall the reason.

“…but, why is Yusuke keeping quiet about this? He’s clearly a victim here…” Ryuji spoke up and Mishima turned away… though he was fortunate that his form was invisible because the shame was painted clear as day on his face.

“Madarame’s… letting him live with him, right?” Ann attempted to see things from Yusuke’s perspective, even for a minute “What if he has nowhere else to go?”

“That’s—”

“…effin’ messed up!” Ryuji feet stomped the ground, powerlessness at being a youth playing a part.

“So, you’ve all seen how Madarame views his pupils. What do you all think?” Ren brought their attention to why they were even here to scope out the Palace in the first place.

“He’s a scumbag! I say we steal his treasure the first chance we get!” Ryuji was eager to put another shitty adult in their place.

“I agree with Ryuji-kun… how much longer until Yusuke ends up as another discarded student?” Shiho concurred.

“Preying on the future of those who don’t even understand what’s being stolen… you already know my answer.” Goro’s eloquence was matched by the

“I… don’t know—” Ann gave the first negative appraisal for their next target.

“What?”

“Hear me out okay? Kitagawa-kun just sounds so respectful of Madarame…” Ann explained the possible point of view that the one they were intending of saving might have “What if doing this makes things end up even worse for Kitagawa-kun?”

“…but if he really is abusing him, shouldn’t we stop him?” Ryuji couldn’t settle for it and voiced his own concern. Silence dominated the thieves at the very real possibility Ann had given.

Ren shook his head, feeling this course of events was inevitable “Alright, we’ll have to hear it from Kitagawa’s own mouth it seems.”

“What a pain in the ass…” Ren nodded in agreement at Ryuji’s vulgar conclusion.

“I’ll contact Kitagawa-kun” Ann offered, unknowing to the extend the unforeseen boy’s intentions might be “I might be able to get the truth out of him if I accept his modelling offer.”

Ryuji could only stare at her in surprise “For real?”

“You all better come with me, Ok? I’m scared to go alone…” Ann shivered, fearful of what could transpire if she had gone along with someone who had just recently stalked her.

“Hmm… we can’t all go with you. That’d probably be too intimidating for Yusuke.” Ren pondered; hand wrapped around his chin in deep thought “We’ll send two people along with Ann.”

“I’m going!” Shiho jumped to the opportunity immediately.

“Me too!” Ryuji was second fiddle to her.

Ren shook his head, denying the blonde boy his chance “Sorry… but you’re not going, Skull.”

“What!?” his reaction was predictable, but Ren stood firm.

“Crow will go instead. He’s a reliable authority figure and he’s a year older than us…” Goro nodded at the praise, giving no objection to his “He’ll keep the situation level if things go south.”

‘And I don’t want this version of Ryuji to be there when Yusuke proposes a nude painting of Ann…’

“…fine.” Ryuji reluctantly agreed.

Ren felt as if he was missing something only to be reminded by a sideways glance at Morgana “Oh, we’ll send three!”

“Mona, scope out the place while the three of them distract Yusuke.” the not-cat needed to find that door after all.

“Got it, Joker!” Morgana salute, excited at the responsibility he was assigned.

‘And I need some time away from Morgana… you’ve been getting too suspicious of me.’ Ren contemplated the predicament he had found himself earlier. Morgana’s suspicions were not too far off.

‘Damn, where did I mess up?’

Chapter Text

Tuesday, 17th of May 2016
LeBlanc Attic, Yongen-Jaya
Evening


[PT#H]

Shiho          I’m so sorry everyone.

Goro            I should’ve stepped in earlier, I was at fault too.

Do we want to know? Ren

Ann             Uh… we may have made it worse?

Ryuji           What happened?

Kitagawa threatening to report you to the police? Ren

Goro            We aren’t actually sure…

Goro            We left before he woke up.

Ryuji           Woke up?

Shiho          I’m really sorry.

Shiho          I don’t know what came over me…

Ryuji           Don’t really get what’s going on here.

Did Kitagawa say something untoward? Ren

Yuuki          Untoward?

Shiho          How did you?

Ann             Shiho apparently has a pretty mean left hook.

You punched him… Ren

Hard enough to knock him unconscious. Ren

And then you ran away? Ren

Shiho          I’m sorry!

Ryuji           Woah, that’s pretty badass!

Ryuji           I mean: that’s pretty BAD!

Yuuki          Why would you do that, Shiho?

Goro            I can elaborate.

Ann             Please don’t!

Goro            It seems Kitagawa-san was experiencing something akin to an artist's block.

Goro            He could not paint Ann as is.

Goro            So he requested that he paint her in the nude.

Ryuji           What!?

Yuuki          What!?

Ann             No! Please stop talking about it!

Ryuji, no. Ren

Ryuji           I haven’t even said anything yet!

I could tell what you were going to say. Ren

Shiho already assaulted the guy… Ren

We are in so much trouble if he reports us. Ren

Ryuji           Did you at least get him good, Shiho?

Ryuji           Knocked a tooth out?

Shiho          Not that I recall.

Shiho          I mean no, of course not! I didn’t hit him that hard.

Ann             His unconscious body says otherwise.

Goro           I concur, I’d have to say it was an excellent punch.

Shiho          STOP!!!

Yuuki          Um, with that out of the way…

Yuuki          What do we do now? Are we going after Madarame?

My answer remains the same, did anyone else’s change? Ren

Ryuji           I’m on the same boat as Renren.

Shiho          I also feel bad for Kitagawa-kun now… I want to help him too.

Yuuki          I can’t afford to look away, we’ll stop him.

Goro            Well put, Yuuki-san.

Ann             Yeah… we can’t just leave things be.

Ann             Oh and Ren, I have Morgana with me.

Ann             He says he has your report ready, whatever that means.

Ann             I’ll bring him to school tomorrow.

Thanks. Ren

I finally get a night with no one pestering me to go to bed. Ren

Don’t tell Morgana that! Ren

[PT#H]


Wednesday, 18th of May 2016
Student Council Room, Shujin Academy
After School

The student council room was slowing down its bustle as the day closed. The secretary and vice-president’s phones rang in unison and the two exchanged a silent nod in acknowledgment. The two boys stood in a staggered harmony, calling the attention of the president and their newest member.

“See you, President.” Ren waved goodbye as he left with his bag in tow.

“We’ll be going earlier than expected.” Goro bowed and followed Ren out the door post-haste.

“Have those two been friends for a while?” Ken shook off the sudden yet awkward goodbyes the two had given. Makoto and Ken had been left alone in the student council room

“Not that I’m aware of…” Makoto shook her head, dismayed at how different Goro had been acting in the past few weeks “He just recently transferred, Goro’s friendliness towards Ren has surprised me too…”

“Maybe they’ve been friends for a while…?” Ken offered, not entirely understanding how odd it all was.

“I’m not sure… I’ve known Goro since our first year at Shujin and he never mentioned anyone like Ren.” Makoto circled her fingers on the table as she reminisced on memories of old.

Ken frowned despite being unaware as to why “Does that bother you?”

“A bit…?” Makoto turned away from the table “But, that’s not why you’re here, right?”

“The Phantom—" Ken was unceremoniously interrupted by the door suddenly busting open.

“Goro-kun!” it was a girl with fluffy light-brown hair and a distinctive pink cardigan “Oh, he’s already gone…?”

“Mako-chan…? Oh, and the other Goro-kun…” her disappointment was palpable as she only recently took notice of the two student council members that were in the room the whole time.

“I’m—” an interruption struck Ken once more.

“I remember you, Ken-kun.” his name came to her as she pondered where the albino dog that was with his last time went “Hm, where is Koro-chan?”

“Haru-san… I don’t think it would be prudent to bring a dog to school.” Ken gave the stiffest smile he could muster to the girl.

“Oh, right!” the realization was short-lived as another point of contention came to the fluffy-haired girl “But doesn’t your secretary bring along a cat?”

“What?” Makoto broke out into a daze ‘He does what now?’

Haru quickly covered her mouth with both hands “Oh, was that supposed to be a secret?”

Makoto was still confusion was as clear as day on her face “N-no, w-w-wait—”

“Ren sneaks a cat around the school?” Ken cut off her surprised stuttering and refocused on the pertinent subject.

“Mhm, it’s a cute little black cat that stays in his bag.” Haru gave a wide smile. Closing her eyes to imagine petting the cute black fur on the cat’s back.

“When did you see it?” Makoto recomposed and began speaking in complete sentences again though a faint tinge on her face indicated her past shame ‘Though I should be asking how we missed it instead…’

“Well, the cat peers over Ren-kun’s shoulder whenever he talks to Goro-kun, it's hard to miss.” Haru gave an ominous sickly smile as she spoke of the two ‘What are you doing to him Ren-kun?’

“Only with Goro?” Ken pressed for more information.

“I don’t know, I don’t see Ren-kun too much unless it's him talking Goro-kun’s time.”

The two remaining student council members collected their thoughts on the matter. Makoto had already suspected something odd when Goro invited Ren to the student council after spending an entire year keeping it exclusive to only two members under the guise of strict requirements.

“…Goro-kun today too…” Haru mumbled to herself as Makoto and Ken were lost in their thoughts “But he’s gone…”

“If Ren-kun and Goro-kun already left…” Haru called them to attention “What are you two staying here for?”

“Well—”

“What do you think of the Phantom Thieves?” Ken cut her off with a plan that had popped into his mind.

“Ken!?” even the president was caught off guard by Ken’s question.

“The Phantom Thieves…? Oh, the ones that sent that calling card to Kamoshida and made him confess?”

“The very ones.”

“Well, they’re interesting…?” Haru entered a thinking pose, sitting her chin on her palm “But are they even real?”

“That’s what we're trying to figure out.” Ken admitted openly.

Much to the dismay of Makoto “Ken!”

“Oh! Like a mystery novel!” Haru’s eyes shone with wonder and her excitement coated her request “May I join too?”

“Certainly—” Ken began.

“NOT!” only to be denied by Makoto.

“But… why Mako-chan?” Haru sniffled whilst speaking. Her eyes were cast downward as she had believed that she had managed to offend her friend.

“…it’s dangerous…?” Makoto attempted to reason but instead came out trying to convince herself more than anything. She fumbled on her words

“Well, we don’t know for certain…” Ken took over from the stumped Makoto and invited the brown-haired girl directly “But we’d appreciate your help, Haru-san.”

“What is this about Ken?” Makoto jabbed him with her elbow.

“We need more help.” He admitted to both and took a step back to whisper to Makoto away from Haru’s notice “We missed something like a cat under our noses… what else have we been blind too?”

“So, ignore… Mako-chan for a moment.” Ken snickered as he used Haru’s nickname for the president.

“We’d like your help if you’d give it.” Ken reiterated the offer.

“It certainly sounds fun!” she agreed wholeheartedly.

“To begin with… have you seen this app before?”


Thursday, 19th of May 2016
Museum of Vanity, Metaverse
After School

Infiltrating the golden museum was a simple enough task to replicate the skylight still being an unobstructed pathway. A new complication arose once the thieves rappelled down and caught notice of advanced security systems.

“Woah, these things weren’t here before!” Ryuji brought everyone’s attention to the infrared lasers that were now obscuring their path.

“They’re just infrared lasers… coming into contact with them will alert enemy shadows of our presence.”

“Jump over or slide underneath them when the situation calls for it.” Ren advised.

“Alright, got it!” nearly everyone said a variation of the line in unison.

Ren brought an old idea to the forefront “Also… since we are in a Palace once again, it would be a good time to implement Goro’s idea.”

“Split teams?” Mona speculated openly.

“Yes. One team will trailblaze and clear a path without distractions and the other team will collect any minor treasures and chests left on the wayside.” Ren detailed the rationale behind dividing manpower. It certainly was more efficient to explore Palaces with separate teams with concrete objectives.

“So, we’ll organize ourselves into two three-person units, one lead by Crow and another by me.” Ren continued “Crow will be responsible for the first team, I for the second.”

“Crow, since you’ll be going on ahead and likely to face the most danger…” everyone could piece together that the trailblazing team was significantly more likely to chance upon tougher enemies “Choose which two you’d like to bring along.”

Goro didn’t even give anyone a moment to think about his choices “Mona and Cloud if you two don’t mind?”

“Understood!” Morgana gave a salute.

“I’ll give it my all!” which Shiho replicated.

Ren turned to his two inevitable teammates “Well, Skull and Panther will be with me then.”

‘Almost feels like old times… Morgana would not be happy about that though.’

“We have your back, Joker!” the two members of Ren’s team exclaimed in unison.

“What about me?” Mishima inquired, being left out so far.

“Ghost, you’ll be providing support primarily for Crow’s team but don’t neglect to relay updates about both our circumstances when the situation calls for it.” the invisible thief nodded at the directives. Ren thought that his type of division of labour would’ve been impossible without a support-type Persona to provide both reconnaissance and relay information. It was an honest blessing that Mishima had acquired one with the necessary traits.

“All right, Phantom Thieves…” Ren smirked wildly, an elation he had long sought for rising from deep within.

“Showtime!”


Goro’s team was making light of any shadows in their path, ripping through them with incredible efficiency making it difficult for Ren’s team to catch up whilst collecting the odd trinkets left behind in Palaces. It made Ren wonder why exactly Palaces had obscure valuables hidden away in unsuspecting corners. How exactly these treasures in some otherworld accessed through a phone app could retain material value in his daily life was also beyond him.

‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth as they say.’ Ren should his thought as he snuck behind a crimson-walled art exhibit.

“Blasting these shadows are getting kinda boring…” Ann aired her boredom aloud. Counterproductive to sneaking but a truth that Ren shared as well, so he let it slide for the moment.

Ryuji was quick to jump on any opportunity to join in ranting about the enemy quality “Ya think Crow’s team took out all the tough ones already?”

“Wouldn’t put it past them… Mona talks big, but he can back it up too.” Ren dropped his two cents at the idle conversation the two were having.

‘I thought I told Goro to leave any stragglers behind…’

“I’m pretty sure if anything, Cloud’s the one doing the heavy lifting.” Ann reminisced the odd memory the three had shared yesterday “You should’ve seen her knock Kitagawa-kun unconscious with one hit!”

“Yeah, wish I could…” Ryuji couldn’t help but nod in envy.

Unfortunately for both of them, they were walking straight into another security system “Watch it you two!”

“Joker?” it wasn’t too late as Joker grabbed the two by their suit’s collars or whatever substitute

“Less idle chatter, alright?” Ren chided them though he too felt a little meek over being dragged into it so casually.

“Got it!” the two nodded enthusiastically. ‘Hopefully, that’s a good thing.’

The three continued darting from corner to corner opening what chest was left behind whilst the area was devoid of any Shadow. It was tiresome if not wholly uninteresting work until Mishima had contacted them in an urgent yet panicked voice.

“Joker! We’ve got trouble!”

Ren attempted his best take at a soothing voice “Ghost? Did something happen?”

“Crow and his team are caught in a laser grid trap.” it failed to achieve its desired effect as Mishima still sped through his words.

‘Laser grid trap… its Morgana again, isn’t it?’ Ren recalled a similar incident before where Morgana attempted to steal a large vase.

“We’ll make our way there, tell them to hang tight!” Ren said as he jumped and slid over two laser grids out of the art exhibit and onto a flight of stairs.

“And just after you lecture us about traps…” Ann lamented, following their leader to rescue what fate had befallen their friends.

Climbing up the flight of stairs and into the next art exhibit just revealed the extent of trouble the trailblazing team had caught themselves under.

“I said I should be sorry!” Morgana… berated the other two? Over a seemingly trivial matter by the look of exasperation shared between Goro and Shiho.

“We aren’t blaming you, Mona.” Shiho attempted to reassure the member trapped at the centre of the laser grid.

“It was an ingenious trap, truly anyone of us could’ve fallen for it.” Goro added and despite his choice of words, no trace of condescension could be heard from his voice.

“And I’m saying, no one should’ve fallen for it!” Morgana was having none of it still.

Shiho stifled a dismayed laugh at their predicament “This conversation is a bit circular…”

“Lucky for us, the rescue team seems to be here.” Goro brought his team’s attention to their would-be saviors.

“Joker! Skull! Panther! Tell them that I’m the sole one responsible for this outcome!” Morgana exclaimed at the top of his lungs. It would’ve dragged security over if he was just a bit louder.

Ren just covered his eyes whilst using his other hand to blot out the embarrassing sight from his vision and memory. “Uhh…”

“We’re not sure what’s going on here, but we’ll bust you guys out!” Ryuji exclaimed looking for what could be an off-switch to the overbearing trap.

Ren turned to no one in particular and asked “Ghost, got any leads?”

“The laser grid’s security system is a nearby terminal. I can’t remotely access it… but I can unlock the front entrance!”

“Whoa! Good work Ghost!” Ryuji complimented and wanted to give him a pat on the back… if he could find him. Instead, he rushed to the terminal inside the security room “So this is the security-whatever right? Let’s turn off the lasers then!”

“Hold on… it looks like we need a password to use it.” Ann was quick behind Ryuji as well as quick to notice the complication.

“What about the Shadows? Wouldn’t they know something about it?” the blonde boy offered, remember both Ren’s and Goro’s excellent negotiating skills.

“Well… perhaps but I haven’t seen one in a while.” Ren lamented the situation and turned his head outside the security room “Seems like Crow’s team got rid of them all…”

“Thank you, by the way!” Ren shouted to give Crow some mocking praise. Ignoring the potential threat of Shadows given the previous team's clinical efficiency.

“You’re welcome!” Goro returned in kind, both in tone and volume

As the two exchanged mocking pleasantries, the laser grid suddenly shut itself off.

“Huh, the laser grid is already off?” Ann voiced everyone’s surprise.

Ryuji turned to the terminal to see someone had typed something in the password whilst they were thinking of how to beat it.

One person came to his mind “You’re right… Ghost?”

“Uhm… I listened in to some Shadows before their inevitable demise by Crow.” the invisible boy shivered at the unpleasant closeup memory he had kept “They kept saying hello… and one mentioned upside down… right before writhing into nothingness, I mean.”

“The password also only allows a limit of five numeral digit inputs… so I guessed it to be 07734.”

Ryuji gave a rough guess of where Mishima would be and aimed for a congratulatory pat on the back “I didn’t really follow that… but you’re awesome Ghost!” unfortunately, or fortunately, he missed and slammed the wall instead and grasped his hand in momentary pain.

“Yeah, that was totally cool!” Ann didn’t replicate it and just shared her amazement audibly.

“Thanks…” if one’s voice could blush, Mishima’s made the sound it would’ve made right then and there.

The three, four if one could spot Mishima, exited the security room to the sight of the other half of the thieves. Goro and Shiho were stretching after they had spent nearly ten minutes trapped in stiff positions by the laser grid. Morgana for his part sulked his time away beside the object that had caught them off guard, to begin with.

“Sorry, Joker…” The not-cat didn’t even turn to apologize though his voice told Ren plenty enough.

“It’s alright, Mona. No one got hurt.”

“Thanks for the fast save too.” Goro shifted the subject immediately, not willing to deal with Morgana’s pity party after having been stuck with him for too long.

Ann clarified for the other three “Don’t thank us, thank Ghost. He figured out the laser grid by himself.”

“Really!? Thanks, Yuuki-kun!” Shiho jumped at thin air only to crash into an embrace with the invisible Mishima.

“C-Cloud, co-codenames? Remember?” Mishima struggled to get the words out after seemingly having the wind knocked out of him.

“Oh, sorry!” she apologized but didn’t let go.

‘Huh, Shiho can find him?’ Ren filed that interesting note for later. Luckily for them, the others had already gone to the exit of the exhibit.

“Let’s shift gears and go!” Goro called out for the three stragglers at the back.


With the seven thieves functioning as one team once again, blitzing through the Palace’s weaker shadows was a breeze. Goro still led the trailblazing team but with the addition of Ryuji and Ann from Ren’s team. Their leader split off and made sure to collect whatever valuable garbage was lying around that they could pawn off in Shibuya.

“Intruders in the Second Exhibition Room! Apprehend them at once!” a shadow announced as electric fences rose to coral the thieves in the crowded exhibition room with paintings littered about in the centre.

“Ghost?” Ren silently requested for any clues.

“Detecting a control terminal up above this level!”

“Above…?” Ren raised his head ‘Wasn’t this switch… behind a painting or something?’

“Locate it, Joker. We’ll handle any shadows down here.” Goro already ripped off a shadow’s mask before he finished.

The Phantom Thieves’ leader shook his head as he scaled up the side of a display piece. An isolated open balcony could be spotted from the position Ren has gained on top of the art display. There was barely any room for a running start, but he still attempted it anyway and managed to grasp at the edge with a single hand.

‘That would be much easier if I had… a tool of some kind… I’ll think of that later.’ Ren lifted himself to the edge and found the switch precariously placed in the open.

“Switch located.” Ren reported back to Mishima who relayed the news to the rest of the team. He bashed the button in and the sound of static dancing in the air died down as the electric blockade faded from sight.

“Alright, Joker!” Morgana congratulated him loud enough through their support, Mishima.

“We’re cleaning up down here!” sounds of Shadows evaporating into nothingness between Ryujin’s breaths and bashes made that clear enough.

The thieves made their way out of the exhibition room and down a golden hallway as they exited and came into view of a garden.

“Woah, what’s that?” the exquisite garden was however blocked by a laser array that appeared nigh impenetrable.

Mishima was quick to find “I don’t detect anyway to circumnavigate it from this side…”

“This sign says the same thing.” Ann read the sign before the garden indicating a similar thing. The security terminal for disabling the defences would be located on the opposite side.

“So, we’re at a dead-end?” Shiho hung her head. Everyone, not just her, felt it was too early to get caught up in a roadblock.

This was all still going according to plan for Ren, memories of the future-past withstanding “Not exactly, Morgana you’ve seen this door before, right?”

“Yeah… it was on the second floor of the shack when I did some scouting, it had a hefty look there as well.”

“You’re thinking what I’m thinking?” Ren and Morgana exchanged a sly look accompanied with a smug grin “Pretty much.”

“Okay, can you two let us in on it?” Ann said, just a tiny bit peeved at Ren and Morgana’s apparent antics.

“If we can’t open this door in the Metaverse, we’ll just have to use Madarame’s cognition in the real world to open it.” Ren explained.

“Huh, I’m kinda lost here…” Ryuji slumped his shoulders at a loss.

“Simply put, the reason why that area is so heavily guarded is because of Madarame’s own cognition believing that door to be impenetrable in the real world.” Morgana finished for Ren.

Goro’s eyes widened at the implication “Ah, so changing that cognition by say… showing it open right before his eyes should change the door’s state in the Metaverse as well.”

“We just gotta show him the door open in the real world and the same thing happens in the Palace?”

“Precisely.” Ren and Morgana nodded. Total surety in their assessment.

“Wait, but you mentioned a hefty lock? How’re we gonna open that?” Shiho brought up the first of many complications.

“Leave it to me… with a simple hairpin, I can break it easily.” Morgana boasted before his voice trailed off weakly “…with some time.”

“Mona’s going to need a distraction.” Ren lamented the unfortunate situation they found themselves in “Which is why it was so unfortunate that Yusuke had to have been knocked unconscious the last time you guys were there.”

“I’m sorry!” Shiho apologized profusely once more.

“Not blaming anyone here, just taking stock of the situation.” Ren shook the apology away with one hand and turned to the whole team for the important matter “I’m up for any ideas?”

“We could break in?” Mishima offered absentmindedly.

Ren immediately dismissed it “And get reported for real? Next.”

“We could have Ann offer to go nude for Yusuke’s painting, he really did seem to desire it.” Goro brought the incident up once more.

“No!” Ryuji, Shiho, and Ann all said in unison.

‘They’re pretty resolute about it this time… better not to push it.’ unfortunate given that was the route they had used last time. The change of circumstances with a possible assault charge on the line did complicate matters.

“We could trigger the fire alarm. It’ll make everyone evacuates the shack and Mona should be free for a while to attempt to open it.” Goro offered another idea.

“We’re playing with fire at that point…” Ren honestly contemplated the idea, with an excited grin forming on his face at the idea.

“Isn’t that the same as breaking in…?” Ryuji frowned as he already brought it up.

Goro didn’t miss Ren’s own attempt at a joke “Yeah, but this way we won’t get caught… red-handed.”

Unfortunately, or fortunately, Shiho did. By the looks of it so did everyone else “Are we really going to do this…?”

“We aren’t actually going to commit arson.” Goro assured them though he gave out an odd chuckle in the meantime.

“All we have to do is show Madarame that the door can be opened by someone other than him.”

“…at that point, do we even need Mona?” Ren came to a safer conclusion.

“What!?” one that Morgana wasn’t going to be happy about.

“Can’t we just… have the fire department breakdown the door?”

“You mean have the firefighters break it open?” Mishima said.

Ren continued, finishing his train of thought regarding his teammates' safety “Yeah, then even Mona won’t be at risk of getting found out.”

“But—" Morgana would begin to argue.

Yet nothing would come of it as Ren’s stance was absolute. “But nothing, I’m not having you risk getting caught by firefighters or Madarame…”

Morgana went silent but nodded regardless.

“Skull, Ghost and I will await the change of his cognition in the Palace…”

“Crow, you’ll be responsible for Madarame’s shack, Mona, Cloud, and Panther will accompany you.”

Shiho brought up her insecurities “Is that a good idea…?” the silent question was what would happen if they ran into Kitagawa again.

“Think of it as an exercise in control.” Ren detailed his faith in Shiho “I believe Cloud has the strength to keep her emotions in check.”

Everyone nodded at Ren’s assessment, despite the shortcomings earlier on in the week. They all still trusted Shiho regardless “T-Thank you! I won’t disappoint you, Joker.”

“I expect that of everyone. We’ll enact our plan tomorrow.”


Friday, 20th of May 2016
Madarame’s Shack, Shibuya
After School

The blaring sirens of red fire engines drowned out any other noise in the quiet suburb that Madarame’s shack was located in. Whilst the three teammates on Goro’s end was unaware of what he’d exactly done to cause enough of a ruckus as Morgana and he split up once they’d broken in. Morgana went and scoured the entire building to find not a soul inside which prompted Goro to enter it without hesitation. Ann, Shiho, and Morgana hadn’t seen Goro since.

Until now that is.

Hoarse coughing followed after “Nothing damning, just your typical kitchen incident…” the boy didn’t look any worse for wear though the sickly coughing could only be indicative of whatever scheme he concocted to call attention

“Kitchen—what?” Ann was shocked at the admission “How’d you even know where that is?”

“Morgana wasn’t the only one that went exploring… though mine was a light one.”

“I thought you said we weren’t committing arson?” Shiho muttered loudly enough for everyone to hear.

“It’s not technically arson… per se.” Goro defended on a technicality.

“I called the fire department from inside their house…” Goro began explaining what had transpired inside “They didn’t question who I was, so I used it to my advantage.”

“They should be currently scouring the shack for signs of another person trapped inside… which should lead them to that locked room and breaking it open.”

At that moment, the familiar visage of Madarame entered the scene from a distance. The man looked positively distraught at the sight of a fire engine directed at his shack despite there being no lingering signs of smoke nor fire.

“Let’s watch how this unfolds, shall we?”

As the four began focusing their eyes on Madarame’s interactions with the firefighter that seemingly carried out canvas with him out of the shack…

“Takamaki-san, what is going on here?” Yusuke crept up behind them, but his attention was quickly shifted to the painting carried by the firefighter and the replicas that his compatriots brought out with them “That’s—"

“Shhh!” Ann quickly shut him up with a hand over his mouth.

“Sir, we recovered this painting in a locked room… and multiple other copies of it.” eavesdropping on the conversation had become the modus operandi of the Phantom Thieves in the vicinity alongside Yusuke who had been silenced by the sight of his inspiration and its duplicates.

“Thank god… I can’t let these go to waste.”

“Madarame-san I’m a big fan… but, isn’t that the painting that was reported stolen…?” the firefighter keenly observed the paintings that his team had rescued from the shack.

“You’ve got quite an eye… how much to shut your mouth?” the old man’s complimentary tone quickly shifted to a violent bark.

‘Sensei?’

“What?” the apparent fan was caught off guard by it just like the thieves in hiding.

“Name a price… or would you like something worse to befall you than riches for this discovery?” Madarame had switched his façade entirely and had swapped to open extortion instead.

‘This can’t be!’ Yusuke could no longer hold his tongue as he sprung forth from Ann’s hold and openly spoke his mind.

“Sensei! What is the meaning of this?”

“Dammit, Yusuke!” Ann swore under his breath.

“Yusuke?” the voice was familiar to the old man, but he couldn’t take his notice away from the people who had newly discovered his fraudulent conspiracy.

“Shit!” Goro activates the MetaNav at the moment to escape.

“Beginning navigation.”


Ren’s team hovered about outside the defensive laser grid waiting idly for anything to change. To say it was boring work would be an understatement. Ryuji’s fidgeting legs were a clear enough indicator that the boy wanted something to happen. What he wanted to happen was still left in the air.

“Hey, Joker… why didn’t you send me with Goro and stuff?” until he opened his mouth.

“What brought this about?” Ren turned to him, surprised he brought up a conversation other than how boring standing by was.

“I dunno… just curious I guess.”

Ren could hazard a guess as to why “This is about Kitagawa-san isn’t it?”

“What? No!” the severity of his denial only made it less believable.

The phantom thieves’ leader decided to go for the metaphorical jugular instead “Do you want me to say it’s about Panther instead?”

Before Ryuji could even come up with a coherent sentence, Mishima dropped on into the conversation “What’s this about Panther?”

“Nothing to do with you, Mishima!” Ryuji protested a bit too harshly.

“Codenames.” Ren reminded.

“Right, sorry!”

“Uhm… you guys can call me by Yuu—“ Ren narrowed his eyes at Mishima before he could finish “By my first name too if you want…”

“Sure… Wait, how did you get Panther to call you that?”

“What do you mean?” Mishima was confused as to what Ryuji was referring to.

“Everyone around calls you by your surname, right?”

“They don’t have to…” the teal-haired boy said in a low voice. He constantly felt a distinct difficulty in creating and managing friendships. People tended to end up within arm’s reach for him, hence the prevalence of his surname over anything else.

“But yeah, how’d she change from that? I remember her being pretty cold to ya’.”

“She apologized… I didn’t expect it either.”

“Apologize… for?”

“You know, remember right after we got out of Kamoshida’s Palace?” Mishima contorted face conveyed how much he did not want to revisit the memory. He’d already gotten apologies from almost everyone in the Phantom Thieves and any more would be getting awkward.

“Oh, that?” Ryuji’s eyes grew wide at the realization “I haven’t apologized either! Shit dude!”

“Ah, it doesn’t matter…” Mishima attempted to sweep it under the rug.

“Really? Still though… my bad, you’re pretty cool in the Metaverse! Don’t remember why I was so hard on you anymore.” Ryuji went silent trying to remember why exactly the thieves were so mad at Mishima. ‘Was it about the criminal leak…? Why’d we be so mad about that though?’

Mishima, noticing Ryuji’s prolonged silence, returned to the beginning of the conversation “Sorry ‘bout butting in… but I interrupted something didn’t I?”

Ryuji snapped out of his thoughts at last “Not something major…”

“Just Ryuji needed to remind Ryuji he needs to talk to people—like we are doing right now—instead of doing things for them.” Ren disagreed, and got

“Hey! What do you mean… doing things… talk…” Ryuji’s voice went lower at each word until he began mumbling things to himself incoherently.

“You’re right!” a sudden eureka moment struck the blonde boy “My bad, Ghost! Didn’t mean to drag you into this!”

Mishima just shook his head in dismay “I don’t know what you dragged me into either.”

“Cleared my head though, now if those guys could hurry up…”


[Joker]

RANK UP! Chariot Confidant has reached Rank 3.


As if on cue, the Palace started shaking at Ryuji’s insinuation.

“Joker, I’m detecting an incoming shift—” before Mishima could even finish the oddly ornate gate peacock-looking door opened. It simultaneously heralded the deactivation of the garden’s laser defence system as well.

“Nice! They did it!” Ryuji raised his fist in the air in celebration.

Mishima for his part called to attention “The disturbance on my scanning abilities from before is gone. I can direct you two to the security terminal now!”

“Alright, way to go Ghost!” Ryuji cheered him on.

“It should just be up ahead, past an incline and to the left!”

Ren nodded “Got it, security details?”

“Moderate security. Battle may be necessary.”

“That’s alright with us!” Ryuji was bored enough before already. Anything to get them moving was fine with Ryuji, bashing shadows in was a bonus too and there was already one waiting for them in the duo’s way.

“Yo, you’re gonna let us through, right now!” Ryuji didn’t even bother sneaking by and went straight to the shadow guard and challenged it straight up.

“I see, that attire… You must be the thieves who dare threaten Lord Madarame!” said guard transformed into its true self to reveal a familiar persona to Ren, Nue.

“Trespassers have breached the impenetrable security system?” the shadow guard proclaimed as it prepared for battle “…you cannot go any further! You are trespassing on Lord Madarame’s territory!”

“You guys ain’t got nothin’ on us! I’m more scared of screwin’ up and having Ann yell at me!” Ryuji quipped back.

“Orpheus! Set it ablaze!” Ren called upon the master of strings as if it was the most natural feeling in the world. He recalled how he’d received this boon from whoever had begun cohabitating his mind since he travelled back in time, yet unlike most other Persona… Orpheus felt distinctly ‘not his own’, a somewhat borrowed power.

Ren didn’t dwell too long at it as he sent a flaming volley at their foe and downed it with ease. “Skull?”

“Got it!” The two busted loose into an all-out-attack that left the opposing Nue reeling.

“Captain Kidd! Let’s finish this!” Ryuji for his part finished off Nue with ease, a combined assault from his Persona and his own weapon finished off whatever semblance of resistance Nue held out for.

“Phew… things’re no match even when it's just us two!” Ryuji bluster was on full display though it was seemingly well-deserved as not a bead of sweat could be seen rolling down “All we need is Mona and we’d have the original gang back together.”

“Let’s turn off the security system.” Ren reminded him of why they were even here, lest Ryuji runs off and challenges more Shadows.

“Already ahead of you.” Mishima contacted the two thieves “I already turned the security off… was easy enough, no password required this time.”

“Way to go, Ghost!”

“What do we do now?” Ryuji excitedly queried through Ren already knew what was running through the blonde’s head.

“We reconvene with the rest of them in the real world…”

“And here I was hoping to get more action.” a disappointing response for Ryuji.

“We’ll get plenty more, but we don’t exactly have a good way of communicating when inside a Palace.”

“Joker… I’m detecting familiar readings! It’s everyone… and it looks like they dragged someone with them?”

Ren sighed “Must be Kitagawa-san… can you get find where they are?” it seemed like an inevitability or as one would call it ‘fate’.

“They’re further back in the main exhibition hall.”

“Skull. Ghost. Let’s go!”


The four thieves plus Kitagawa-san crashed in the art gallery where things had first unfolded. The five all fell with varying degrees of grace on the soft floor. Goro had landed flat on his feet and remained composed as such. Shiho fell to one of her knees, but still managed to keep her head high. Ann for her part fell flat on her back alongside Yusuke on his front. Morgana luckily bounced off one of their heads.

The sight of a near unconscious Kitagawa did trigger something in the black-haired girl of the group “Oh no! I didn’t mean to hit him so hard… Are you ok? Wake up!”

“Cloud, you didn’t do anything, this time.” Goro assured the panicking girl.

Pushing himself off the ground, Kitagawa backed off from the oddly dressed trio “Who are you all?”

“Calm down, Kitagawa-kun! It’s me!” Ann called out.

“…Takamaki-san?” the voice was instantaneously familiar to him “That means you two are…” fear flashed across his face when he recognized Suzui-san.

“I don’t recall ever seeing this cat costume before though…” he eyed Morgana curiously.

Turning his attention away from the getups of the people around him. The odd one out of the five took notice of the art gallery composed of distorted paintings, some of which were people he recognized “What is this place…?”

“We’re inside Madarame’s heart.”

Disbelief struck his face “Inside… Sensei’s heart?”

“This is what your Sensei truly feels. He’s nothing special in the sea of disgusting adults we all see every day.” Goro added, acid coating every single word.

“Enough of this rubbish!” disbelief now aught Kitagawa’s mouth instead.

“Kitagawa-kun! Didn’t you see something wrong with Madarame right before we fell here? Those duplicate… they stirred something in you.” Ann reminded him of the sight and painful implication it had sunk within him.

“That’s…”

“This world is how Madarame truly views the world.” Shiho low tone continued “…this distorted museum is his true nature.”

“This repulsive world…?” Kitagawa clutched his head with a single hand “Just who are all of you…?”

“We are the one on the side of justice, making those with distorted desires face themselves for what they are.” Goro answered.

“If everything you say is true, then the Sensei I know doesn’t exist…” the truth and lies around the blue artist start to stack on top of each other “Still… he has kept me safe these past ten years. My gratitude will for that won’t just disappear.”

“You’re not seriously considering returning to his side… are you?” Shiho’s concern was displayed both in her voice and face.

“Sorry, but we don’t have time to dawdle.” Morgana cut into the conversation “Ghost just contacted me and informed everyone that the security has gone on high alert!”

The thieves all turned to Goro for further orders “We need to regroup.”

“Joker, Skull, and Ghost are attempting to reconvene on our position but they’re a lot further in.” Morgana relayed what information he had received from Mishima.

Kitagawa knees gave in with a groan” N-Ngh…”

“Are you okay?” Kitagawa nodded at the display of concern from Ann.

“We need to keep an eye on the rookie as well… I’d advise we avoid all combat.” Morgana appraised Kitagawa heavily. It did remind him of the time Ryuji had yet to awaken his Persona for him.

“So, this… is the inside of Sensei’s heart?” the rookie did not listen to a single word to what the odd cat had said “A vain museum such as this…?”

“Ah, this painting…!” as he instead let his gaze take in the exact extent of the scenery, he had found himself in.

“Do you recognize it? We were thinking they might be his past pupils or something…” Ann questioned.

“But… why are there paintings of them here…?”

“Technically, those aren’t paintings. They’re the pupils themselves.” the not-cat corrected impatiently.

“Madarame sees his students as objects, his creations so to speak, that he can use and dispose of as he wishes.” Goro coldly stated, his voice steady.

“We found yours in here too…” Shiho's words shook the boy to his core as the possibilities began falling into place.

“……”

“We have to meet up with Joker and his team! We can’t leave them alone if this place’s security level has gone through the roof!” Goro had enough of the dawdling and began making his way to the other team. Everyone followed with Kitagawa trudging along, his thoughts weighing him down more than anything else.


Goro and Morgana lead the team to the room where the statue titled ‘The Infinite Spring’ resided. “Just beyond that door!”

The five were intercepted by shadow guards and a man dressed in golden garbs who introduced himself with a mad cackle “Who is it!? …What the—”

“Kamoshida was some king… and now Madarame views himself as some sort of Shogun…” some of Shiho’s thoughts didn’t leave her lips ‘The distorted heart is truly revolting.’

“Welcome to the museum of the master artist Madarame…” the illustrious ruler of said museum introduced himself.

“Huh…?” Kitagawa was dumbfounded by the attire, but he recognized him nonetheless “Sensei? Is that you?”

“This… this is all one big lie, isn’t it…?” the boy’s voice cracked in disbelief once more.

“My usual ragged attire is nothing but an act.” an intolerable smug aura surrounded the would-be Shogun “Besides, a famous person living in that shack? I have another home… under a mistress’s name, of course.”

“I’m almost impressed.” Goro spat out.

The pretentious palace ruler repeated the cackle he introduced himself with “Hahaha, don’t make me laugh!”

“If the ‘Sayuri’ was stolen, why were their copies of it? And why did you try to silence those firemen?” Kitagawa was at his practical breaking point “If it’s really you, Sensei… please tell me!”

“Foolish child. You still don’t see?” Madarame’s shadow unapologetically explained “The painting being stolen was just a false rumour I spread! It was all a perfectly calculated staging!”

“What do you mean…!?”

“Let me see… how does this sound?” the Palace ruler continued, each word dripped with malice “I found the real painting, but it can’t go public… You can have it for a special price, though…”

“Haha! How’s that for preferential treatment!? Art snobs’ll eat it up and pay good cash at that!”

“No…!” the blue-haired boy fell to his knees.

“Worth of art is purely subjective… Thus, this is a legitimate business transaction! Though a brat like you would ever come up with such a brilliant scheme!” the gloating continued from the shadow.

“For all your talk about money, I’m surprised your distortion didn’t result in a bank… not vain enough for you?” Shiho quipped back, lamenting the nature of Palaces in general.

“You’re supposed to be an artist, right!? Aren’t you ashamed of plagiarizing other people’s work!?” Ann voiced her disdain as well.

“Art is nothing but a tool… A tool to be used for money and fame!” Madarame’s shadow minced no more words “You helped me greatly as well, Yusuke…”

“This is your Sensei. Do not even dare avert your eyes from this!” Goro barked out, momentarily losing his composure.

“But what about the people who believe in you…? Who think you’re a master artist…!?” Kitagawa couldn’t help but remain in disbelief.

“…I’ll tell you this alone, Yusuke.” he gave a grave warning “If you wish to succeed in this world, I’d advise you don’t rise against me.”

“Do you believe anyone could find success with my objection holding them down? Hahahaha!” Madarame’s cackling was beginning to get tiresome to most in his presence.

“To think I was under the care of this wretched man…!”

Whatever despicable nonsense had exited the shadow’s mouth were ignored by the now-former pupil.  “…You are unforgivable.”

“Hm?”

“It doesn’t matter who you are… I won’t forgive you!”

“So… you repay me keeping you around for all these years with ingratitude…? You damn brat!” the shadow of his sensei turned his back, waving his hand authoritatively “Men! Dispose of these thieves!”

“Get back!”

“How amusing…” Kitagawa, however, did not pay heed to Morgana’s command. Instead, a peal of eerie laughter spouted from his mouth, eyes gone wild with the fact that they were no longer clouded by his own hand. Kitagawa couldn’t help but become even more detached from reality than he already was.

“It seems the truth is stranger than fiction, hm…?”

“Kitagawa-kun?” Ann asked in concern.

“I wanted to believe it wasn’t true… I had clouded my vision for so long…” he clutched his beating head with one hand.

“My eyes were truly blind… blind, and unable to see the true self behind this one horrible man…!”

“Have you finally come to your senses?”

“How foolishly you averted your eyes from the truth…”

“A deplorable imitation indeed…”

“Best you part from that aspect of yourself!”

“Let us now forge a contract…”

“I am thou, thou art I…”

“The world is filled with both beauty and vice…”

“It is time you teach people which is which!”

“Very well…” an ornate kitsune-style half mask covered his face and with one single motion…

“Come, Goemon!” he ripped it away.

A pillar of flame rose from his feet and after it faded it revealed his new appearance. In place of his school uniform was now a black high collar jumpsuit, white riding boots, a fox’s tail attached from behind, and bright blue gloves.

“A breathtaking sight…” behind him stood his persona, Goemon.

“Imitations they may be, but together, they make a fine spectacle…” a giant pompadour catching everyone’s attention.

“Though the flowers of evil blossom, be it known… Abominations are fated to perish!”


Ren, Ryuji and assumedly Mishima made a mad dash through the Palace. They ignored and avoided any possible encounter with any foes along the way through that was easy enough given the surprisingly lax presence despite the raised alert level.

“Hope we’re not too late…” Ren opened the door leading back into the place that housed the statue titled ‘The Infinite Spring’.

The room appeared trashed by a devastating battle, walls singed by fire and patches of the ground completely frozen over.

“Dude, what happened here?” Ryuji nearly doubled over after taking in the sight.

“I can guess… but why don’t we just ask them?” Ren attempted to recall what had transpired after Yusuke had awakened “They’d be in the lobby by now…”

“I can confirm that!” Mishima added from nowhere.

Ryuji jumped as he was closely inspecting the singed surfaces “Woah! Sheesh, Ghost… any way for you to not sneak up on us?”

“I don’t know… becoming visible seems to require summoning my Persona.”

“We’ll talk about it later…” Ren opened the door that took them to the lobby and the sight of the four thieves he had sent to Madarame’s house surrounding a familiar Fox who took a seat.

Their leader introduced himself, dragging the five’s notice to himself “How’d it go?”

“Joker!” Ren wasn’t even given a chance to reply as Morgana rushed over to his side.

“I could ask the same of you.” Goro shot back.

“Security system in the garden is disabled, we should be able to go through next time.” Ren explained to the relief of the other team, they did not want to have to see Ren fail… or get mad once again “I see you found Kitagawa-san awakened as well…”

“Kitagawa?” Ryuji caught the name “you mean that punk that wanted Ann—”

Ren gave the skull-masked boy a light jab to his sides “Codenames.”

“Right… sorry.”

“Not the time to discuss that now as it looks like he just awakened to his Persona… you must be exhausted, right?” Ren offered a hand to the newest boy.

Kitagawa shook the open hand with his own “You are the leader of the Phantom Thieves… correct?”

Ren nodded “I assume they explained.” and pointed an open palm towards Goro’s team.

“I’d introduce myself but… it isn’t so wise to do that inside a Palace.” codenames weren’t just for show after all. ‘Though, they do make for a good show.’

As the Phantom Thieves were absorbed by their own little conversation in the lobby, a newcomer spoke to them from the staircase leading to the exhibit.

“My, my… I almost mistook you for one of our own.” a mysterious voice flanked them from the stair adjacent to the room… or it would’ve been mysterious if it hadn’t been one Goro had been so intimately familiar with.

“Ha-Noir?” Goro was utterly dumbfounded. The girl that stood before them all was someone he recognized in his memories; it was Haru in her Phantom Thief outfit.

“Oh my, you look just like mine too!” the Haru-pretender glowed at them all. A figure crept from behind the girl, another familiar one had entered the sights for both Ren and Goro.

“Noir, this is no time for playing games.” the outfit was unmistakably Makoto’s own.

“You’re no fun…” the Haru-lookalike whined.

“That’s exactly why I’m here.” the Makoto-lookalike scolded her partner.

Upon heavier inspection, the pair of eyes the two had the same black sclera that the previous doppelgangers had back in Kaamoshida’s Palace.

“Those eyes…!” Morgana took notice of it as well.

Ann quickly caught on to the not-cat’s implications “Wait! Are they like the doppelgangers of those two that we met back at Kamoshida’s?”

Their conversation held within the thieves went ignored by the two doppelgangers as Haru’s doppelganger entered a trance-like state. Her gaze locked on Goro’s figure and outfit.

“Maruki-sensei once said that our likeness to them was unmistakable… you truly do look like him…” the doppelganger was positively enchanted by Goro. Makoto’s double merely shook her head at her partner’s antics.

“Sorry, but I don’t know why our leaders let you go free during your last encounter.” Makoto’s double was clearly the more serious of the two as she entered a combat-ready stance “But we can’t have you interfering with our clients.”

“Clients?” Ren mumbled underneath his breath. ‘…they’re working for them? No, they’re offering these clients a service…’

“Scarlet!” Haru’s double summoned a Persona, one that looked similar to Milady. Ren couldn’t be sure as it had been quite a while since he’d taken in that appearance. “Sorry, but we really can’t have any competition.”

“Mary!” Makoto’s double summoned her Persona, which also looked too similar to Makoto’s own Johanna. Yet…

‘Why can’t I remember? These were their Persona, right? My teammate’s own Persona!’ in the depths of his own thoughts, Ren had failed to notice the fight that had already broken out between the Phantom Thieves and the two… ‘Echoes, that’s what Messiah called them.’

“Joker!” Shiho tackled Joker out of the way, barely dodging the edge of the Haru-lookalike’s axe. Shiho instead took a hefty blow from the Haru-lookalike’s swing, leaving the girl on the brink of consciousness.

“Yo, what’s wrong Joker? These girls clearly mean business!” Ryuji offered a hand to the downed Ren.

‘I-I need to get my head back into this!’ Ren regathered his thoughts “Right!”

“Oh, you’re ready to fight?” Ryuji teased as both boys pulled out their weapons.

“No…” a plan was formulating in his head “We need to get out of here…”

“What, and just let them get away?” Morgana heard the in-battle conversation and piped in. Ryuji for his part swung his pipe at the Makoto-lookalike whilst she was distracted by Ann.

“We can’t fight… everyone’s exhausted and Yusuke just awakened his Persona.” said newly awakened Persona user couldn’t even afford to stand by his lonesome anymore and was relegated to watching the wild mess unfold.

‘Yusuke?’ Morgana relented “…you’re right.”

“Ryuji and I are the best rested out of everyone here. We’ll hold them off.”

“The rest of you, get out of the Palace!”

“We can’t just leave you—” Shiho fretted over their safety, but she couldn’t even afford to finish her sentence.

“You will, me and him will get out of this.”

“Yeah! Leave this to us!”

The persona users who had faced the battle against the guards that Madarame’s shadow had brought understood their failings at the moment. Yet they found it too difficult to part ways with two of their current members. It was Goro’s own words that finally had moved them in the direction of Ren’s plan.

“They’ll be fine…” Goro spared one final look towards Haru’s lookalike before leading the others away reluctantly.

As the opposing girls ran to intercept Goro’s team, Ryuji came between them and forcefully slammed his pipe in the way “You’re facing us… do I know you?”

“You’re just as thick as the one that I know…” Makoto’s echo lamented.

“…” Ren stayed silent, staring down Haru’s echo.

“No quips?” the girl gave a sickly-sweet smile, completely reminiscent of the Haru that he knew.

“Orpheus! Cadenza!” the master of strings played his harp and the calming tune brought forth rejuvenating energy, enough to make them forget that they had been running ever since the garden, and both boys began feeling lighter on their feet.

“Nice one, Joker!” Ryuji hopped on his feet, feeling the spell’s effects already.

“Cadenza…?” Makoto’s echo looked bewildered at the unknown spell.

“Don’t forget about me! Captain Kidd!” a bolt of lightning descended on top of Makoto’s echo.

Haru’s echo was not happy about that, her wicked and sadistic grin notwithstanding “Scarlet! Let’s gun them down, Triple Down!”

A hail of bullets from the Persona Scarlet was aimed towards both Ren and Ryuji. They were able to evade every single one with relative ease and grace much to the echo’s dismay “What!?”

Ryuji couldn’t help but gloat, the familiar feeling of his legs working with him bring forth his arrogance “Heh, didn’t expect that did’ja?”

“Jack Frost! Mabufu!” Ren didn’t let up and switched his Persona to attack both of the echoes with magical ice. The blast was powerful enough to completely encase Makoto’s echo in ice.

“Take this!” Ryuji rushed in with his pipe, swinging it at the now frozen girl.

‘They're susceptible to this just like us…’ a concrete plan finally formed in Ren’s mind “Ryuji! Keep using Zio!”

“You absolute idiots! No holding back!” the cold red rage that burned in Makoto’s echo was a wholly reminiscent of Makoto’s own.

“Mary! Gun it!” she summoned her motorcycle of a Persona once more and accelerated to full speed aiming to run either of the boys over.

“Gah!” Ren groaned in pain. Unfortunately, he wasn’t quick enough on his feet and took the full brunt of the echo’s road rage.

Ryuji looked absolutely livid and returned fire with his Persona as per Ren’s request “You’re not getting away with that, Zio!”

Makoto’s echo crashed off her Persona Mary and was roughhoused by the ground on impact. “What happened?” static danced on the surface of her outfit as Haru’s echo rushed towards her side “Did she get paralyzed?”

“Whoa, is this what Joker meant…?” Ryuji looked at the sight of the apparently paralyzed opponent before realizing the state his leader was in “Joker!”

Ren was sprawled on the ground, clutching both of his sides after the attempted vehicular manslaughter. Though given it was the Metaverse, it wouldn’t leave any lasting damage, despite it hurting like an actual motorcycle induced injury. Ryuji went over to his right side and held him up, letting one of his hands go free.

He used it to reach for a small ball in his pocket and crushed it.

The two of them disappeared in a cloud of smoke.


Saturday, 21st of May 2016
LeBlanc Attic, Yongen-Jaya
After School

[PT#H]

Apologies for worrying everyone yesterday. Ren

It was the best course of action given the situation. Ren

Ryuji           We handled ourselves!

Ryuji           We were pretty badass!

Ann             Don’t talk like that Ryuji, you just sound lame.

Shiho          Ann, I believe Ren and Ryuji would appreciate some praise.

Shiho          I’m thankful to you both for helping us out.

Goro            I’d extend my thanks too…

So I’ve heard that you’ve invited Kitagawa-san? Ren

Without my consent? Ren

Ann             It’s not like that!

Ann             He was very insistent on helping expose Madarame!

Ann             We didn’t mean to do it behind your back…

Ann             I’m sorry…

Goro            Ann, I believe he is joking.

Right you are. Ren

As long as everyone is okay with it, I don’t mind. Ren

Ryuji           To hell! I’m not okay with it!

Ryuji           And weren’t you the one who forced us to take Mishima in?

Ryuji           No offense, Mishima.

Yuuki          None taken. Though I did say you can just call me Yuuki.

Ryuji           Ah right! Sorry, Yuuki!

It was a heated moment. Ren

Do you regret me making it? Ren

Ryuji           No…

So, it’s settled. Ren

Ryuji           Heck no it ain’t!

Goro            Give it up, Ryuji.

Ann             Yeah, just talk to him… you’ll get along!

Shiho          I wouldn’t go as far as Ann, but I doubt you’ll still hate him.

Shiho          I punched him in the face and I don’t hate him anymore.

About that punch… Ren

Does he remember it? Ren

Shiho          No…

Ann             We should ask him!

Goro            That sounds exciting.

Shiho          Please No!

<Yusuke Kitagawa has been added to PT#H>

Too late. Ren

Yusuke        Greetings everyone.

Ryuji           Hey Kitagawa, how’d it feel to get socked by Shiho?

Goro            I believe welcoming the newcomer would be more prudent.

Yusuke        Socked? And I apologize if I do not recall you all by names yet…

Yusuke        However, I welcome everyone to simply call me Yusuke.

Ann             It’s no problem, Yusuke! Welcome to the gang!

Yusuke        Ah, I certainly remember you!

Shiho          No nude paintings.

Goro            The girl with the black hair that you met on Monday, that was Shiho.

Yusuke        Ah, I see.

Yusuke        I am still uncertain what is meant by ‘socked’

Yusuke        I do not recall anyone raiding my dresser.

Shiho          It’s nothing important!

Yuuki          It means to ‘hit forcefully’

Shiho          YUUKI!? WHY!

Yusuke        Ah, I believe I recall now…

Yusuke        You’re the girl that knocked me unconscious.

Yusuke        Please stay away from me.

Shiho’s normally harmless… Ren

Just don’t bring up nude painting Ann around her and you’ll be fine… Ren

Yusuke        I’ll keep that in mind.

Yusuke        She is still quite terrifying, however.

Shiho          I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!

Yusuke        Anyone that can incapacitate with a single blow is terrifying.

Ryuji           Dude, you sure you ain’t just out of shape?

Ryuji           Don’t think anyone’s gonna fall over after one hit.

Goro            I wouldn’t be so certain.

Yusuke        I don’t believe my shape is out of the ordinary?

Yusuke        My body fits the standard proportions depicted in the anatomical guides.

Yuuki          Sorry to interrupt… but those other girls with Personas.

Yuuki          Did anyone recognize them?

Ann             Didn’t get a close enough look, had to run.

Shiho          They were odd, but I don’t think I’ve ever met them before.

Yusuke        My legs refused to move so I was too distracted to notice who they were,

Ryuji           I got a close enough look, but no one came to mind.

Goro            No one came to mind.

Didn’t recognize them either. Ren

Goro            But their talk of clients, what could that mean?

Yuuki          Ren, you mentioned mental shutdowns before right?

Yuuki          Maybe it's related to that?

Shiho          But, how? And what services could they be offering…?

Their services in causing mental shutdowns. Ren

Ryuji           What!?

Ryuji           That’d be totally messed up!

Ann             So… the people causing the mental shutdowns are selling their services?

Yusuke        Madarame-sensei was such a customer?

This is all just speculation on my part. Ren

However, that is my first thought when clients come to mind. Ren

Goro            Indeed… yet that calls to question why.

Yusuke        Madarame… was a murderer?

Not necessarily… or at least not knowingly. Ren

Yusuke        What do you mean?

The others explained that the real self will not remember anything— Ren

—that occurs in their Palace, correct? Ren

Yuuki          What you’re implying…

Yusuke        What does that mean?

It stands to reason that their clients could be the Shadows themselves Ren

The Palace owners won’t remember a thing in the real world… Ren

Ryuji           Holy shit dude…

Shiho          That’s horrible.

Yuuki          It sounds like a perfect crime…

Ann             But why would they do that?

Goro            This is still all speculation from Ren’s end…

Goro            Though we are still left with a why…

Mental shutdowns aren’t the only thing one can use the Metaverse for. Ren

We use it to change hearts, there are maybe more uses we aren’t aware of. Ren

Yusuke, was there something Madarame was using the money for? Ren

A benefactor perhaps? Ren

Yusuke        Not that I am aware of…

Yusuke        There were odd men that often came to visit…

Yusuke        I didn’t pay it much mind… my apologies.

No apologies required. Ren

Welcome to the gang, Yusuke. Ren

[PT#H]


Sunday, 22nd of May 2016
2-D Classroom, Shujin Academy
After School

Ren remained on his seat, staring at his phone. A single message reverberated in his mind.

‘Didn’t recognize them either.’

Why did Goro lie?

Why did he lie as well?

They both knew for a fact who those two were, even if they were just pale imitations in the form of Echoes. Makoto Niijima and Haru Okumura, otherwise known as Queen and Noir of the Phantom Thieves. It was clear as day for the two of them especially, their outfits in the Metaverse couldn’t be mistaken for anything else. He reasoned, but only after he had lied, that he did it because explaining the truth would’ve been impossible.

But they would eventually have to explain the truth.

‘Damn it!’

Makoto, if things went according to his memory, would be the next Phantom Thief after they were done with their current heist against Madarame.

‘Goro and I are on the student council… there’s no way we couldn’t have recognized her…’

Ren cleared his mind.

‘I’ll cross that bridge… eventually.’

He had a different matter to attend to now. The single clue the girl’s Echoes had giving him was a name.

Maruki-sensei.

It was one he’d heard before from Kasumi.

He’d already sent Goro out to do an investigation on Kasumi and what her record could say about the mysterious counsellor that cancelled last minute.

And now he asked her out… to find out more about the cancelled counsellor.

‘I’m a scumbag, aren’t I?’

He glanced at his phone once more, this time a different conversation from today was clouding his mind.

[Kasumi Yoshizawa]

Kasumi. Ren

Are you free to hang out today? Ren

There’s a batting place near Café LeBlanc. Ren

Kasumi        Sure! Is there a special occasion?

No. Ren

I’d just like to spend more time with you. Ren

Kasumi        Senpai…

Kasumi        Let’s meet up in front of the Café!

Kasumi        I’ll see you there after school!

[Kasumi Yoshizawa]

Lying for a pretence to meet up… Ren felt he’d become uncomfortably adept at the art of it recently.

‘This is for finding out who Maruki-sensei is… what those Echoes are…’

The mantra repeated inside his head as he stood from his seat.

How desperately he wished it to be true.


Ren exited the café after changing out of his Shujin uniform and leaving Morgana inside his room. A girl in a red overcoat was waiting outside. She was a familiar sight given her red hair but her bulky clothes made Ren think twice before calling her attention.

“Senpai!” instead Kasumi was the one to call him and grabbed him by the arm all the way to the batting cage.

“I’ve always wanted to go batting!” Kasumi was more than eager to speak about how excellent an idea going to the cages was as her tone descended into a deep longing “Though it was mostly for gymnastics training with Sumire…”

“It tests your sight, reflexes of your arms and balance on your feet… one could almost say it covers most of the important bases for gymnastics training.”

“That sounded like a good reason…” Kasumi's face flushed pre-emptively “But, I also wanted to spend more time with you too…”

Ren’s cheeks responded in kind. There was a lot to unpack in her apparent response to his text.

Kasumi, however, wasn’t any worse for wear “I want you to see me knock them out of the park, Senpai!”

“Well, I can’t let you upstage me now.” her enthusiasm was infectious for the boy who invited her out for ulterior motives.

“I’ll show you my best! I’m motivated now!” Kasumi held a different kind of motive as she entered the batting cage.

“Kasumi Yoshizawa batter up!” she talked to herself in the third person, pumping herself up.

Ren smiled at her antics and gave her his own words of encouragement “Do your best!”

“Huh?” Kasumi swung and missed.

“Ugh!” and another.

“Ha!” three more wide balls.

Kasumi exited the batting cage with cheeks flushed for a very different reason “That was embarrassing…”

“It’s my turn now, huh?” Ren spoke in the most upbeat tone he could manage.

It was no use as her downtrodden face from her failure remained plastered on her face “I’m sure you can do better than me.”

“Ren Amamiya batter up!” he mimicked her own self-introduction in jest, another attempt to raises her spirits.

“Hmm?” Ren swung and went wide.

“Ghg!” a repeat.

“Ngh…” and he succeeded in unintentionally replicating Kasumi’s play.

‘Doing this without the Third Eye is much harder than I remember.’ he mentally noted.

“Well… I didn’t do much better.” Ren left the batting cage scratching the back of his face with an awkward grin.

Kasumi no longer looked downtrodden as a pout replaced her frown “You didn’t do it to just cheer me up, did you Senpai?”

“No, of course not! I can get embarrassed too, you know…” he took the seat beside her and buried his reddening face beneath both his hands.

“Senpai…”


[Joker]

RANK UP! Faith Confidant has reached Rank 4.


“I’ll go again! I know I can hit it this time!” the redhead went into the batting cage before Ren could even give her his reply.

Ren lifted his head and saw her determined expression “What got into her…?”

“Ngh!” four tries left.

“Just a little more…!” another whiff.

“Huh? I did it!” two, one… and a hit.

“Senpai! I did it!” she rushed out of the cage to Ren's s and leaned on his shoulder “I hope we get to spend even more time together from now on, Senpai.”

Ren’s heart pounded even faster but for the wrong reasons ‘What am I doing…?’

“Hey…” Ren’s words caught on his throat ‘Ask about Maruki-sensei… isn’t that why I’m here?’

Kasumi let go of her embrace and locked her gaze with Ren’s and an innocent hope shone through her eyes.

“Me too…”


Monday, 23rd of May 2016
LeBlanc Attic, Yongen-Jaya
Morning

[Goro Akechi]

Goro  I’ve looked into Yoshizawa-san as you’ve requested.

Goro  She’s a student with a gymnastics scholarship.

Goro  Sumire-san seems to have not been performing up to expectations.

Goro  This is most likely related to the traffic incident that occurred in March.

Goro  Where her twin sister, Kasumi Yoshizawa, died.

[Goro Akechi]

Ren dropped his phone without reading what else Goro had written down.

The sound of a screen shattering against hardwood floor permeated the attic.

Chapter Text

Tuesday, 24th of May 2016
Nameless Diner, Shibuya
Evening

Two student council members sat across each other from a diner’s booth. They also happened to be Phantom Thieves, to the knowledge of none in the diner.

“Why here?” Goro spoke up first. He had been invited here alone after he pestered their leader about his announced actions, or inaction, yesterday.

The bespectacled boy turned away, unwilling to meet Goro’s gaze “Don’t want to talk at LeBlanc.”

“Ok…” a tired sigh escaped Goro’s lips.

“So, are you going to tell me why you didn’t come to school yesterday?” Goro voiced the concerns that everyone else had in the thieves’ had raised as well “Someone with your record can’t get away with too many of those.”

Ren bit his lip, either unwilling or unable to share.

Goro sighed and put his phone on the table with their group chat clear to view “Everyone’s worried…”

Still unwilling to meet Goro’s gaze, Ren elaborated as poorly as he could “I-It’s about Ka-Yoshizawa…”

“That, I could tell.” Goro unamused tone was enough to tell Ren to press further.

“I spent the entire day looking into what you said…” Ren elaborated “News articles from March confirm what you said to be the case.”

“But she thinks, genuinely believes that she is Kasumi… and that it was her sister, Sumire, that had died in the accident.” Ren gripped the edge of the table, veins underneath under duress.

“I’ve heard… odd rumours about her behaviour as well.” Goro entered a pondering pose “That ‘Maruki-sensei’ that you mentioned, it seemed he was hired due to the fallout of the Kamoshida scandal.”

Goro continued, revealing more about his discoveries “They could’ve chosen any counsellor, however, yet they went with Takuto Maruki seemingly because of his prior experience with Yoshizawa-san.”

“I-I see…” Ren's eyes widened, now in full view of Goro’s own.

“The Metaverse Navigator also doesn’t turn anything up when we input his name… so we can strike that avenue out.” the brown-haired boy elaborated on the one last avenue he explored.

“So, what did you get out of Yoshizawa-san?” the bespectacled boy was caught off guard by the question, indicated by his dumbfounded expression.

“Huh?”

“Didn’t you go on a date with her to ask about Maruki?” Goro’s emotively added air quotes to the word date.

Ren’s face turned an uncharacteristic shade of crimson “I-I was distracted by her…”

“Her what? You should’ve met up a day before I sent my texts…” the shade on Ren’s face finally dawned on Goro “Wait—”

“Don’t say it.” Ren already began denying.

“I mean—” Goro pressed onwards to be interrupted.

“I’m serious.”

“Really now…?” Goro’s face had entered a full simper.

“Dammit Goro, lay off!”

“I’m just saying… I could give advice.” the brown-haired boy’s hands were laid open on top of the table.

“I don’t even want to know what you mean by that.” Ren shifted away from the table and Goro on the opposite end. He wanted no part in whatever relationship advice Goro could provide.

“I’m the only one in a relationship amongst all of us, aren’t I?” Goro raised a single brow, letting the insinuation stew on the table between them.

“…” Ren did not want to entertain what was going on between Haru and Goro. Not at all.

“Alright…” Goro cleared his throat, having enjoyed the ribbing enough “But we don’t know any more about Takuto Maruki than what we already did.”

“I’ll… figure something out.”

Goro’s eyes narrowed before asking the question on the whole team’s mind “Before or after we return to Madarame’s Palace?”

“I—” Ren contemplated the dangers the team would face if he led them into the unknown. ‘Wasn’t that what I was doing the last time? Dammit!’

“It’d be dangerous if we ran into them again…” Goro hammered his points in harder “Those… Echoes, from what you’ve described, are just as or even more powerful than their counterparts were at that point in time.”

“Technically—” Ren began.

“Neither of them has their Personas yet.” Ren and Goro said in unison, much to the black-haired boy’s surprise.

Goro upturned his head at Ren’s surprise and then finished “Yes, I knew that.”

“Should I speak to Yoshizawa-san?” Goro offered.

“No. I’ll try again, no pretences this time.” Ren conceded, both to himself and the brown-haired boy on the opposite end. ‘This is my responsibility…’

“Are you sure? Given her apparent mental state…” Goro trailed off, leaving the implication floating in the air.

“I will.” Ren picked up his belongings and left without another word.

Goro stayed still at his seat in the diner’s booth, contemplating what to do as his intense gaze could’ve burnt a hole into his phone.

“…should I tell everyone about this?”


Wednesday, 25th of May 2016
???
???

‘It’s been a while…’

‘Messiah?’

‘The very same.’

‘So, what’s the occasion.’

‘I should be asking you that.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘You’re stalling.’

‘You're not one to talk.’

‘Ignoring your issues with Yoshizawa-san isn’t helping.’

‘You think I don’t know that?’

‘Oh you do, you’re just ignoring it.’

‘Ugh, what do you know?’

‘I know plenty about it…’

‘Hm?’

‘Time isn’t on your side, it's not on anyone’s side…’

‘Messiah…’

‘Your team’s safety depends on it.’

‘I know…’

‘I feel a but incoming.’

‘Right… yet I feel like I’m lying to Ka-Sumire…’

‘Then be upfront and tell her the truth.’

‘Truth… you mean—’

‘That you heard Maruki from the Echoes.’

‘…dragging her into Metaverse business like that?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Are you insane!?’

‘Of course not.’

‘You sure sound like you are right now…’

‘I don’t understand how.’

‘Getting bystanders involved!’

‘She no mere bystander if she’s involved with Takuto.’

‘…’

‘The truth… is another’s forte.’

‘Huh?’

‘There’s another wildcard much more well-suited to it than I.’

‘Another… wild card…?’

‘Indeed.’

‘I’ll tell Kasumi… everything, but I want something in exchange.’

‘…go on.’

‘Tell me more about… the others.

‘Others? Wait, I already said I can’t tell you my name!’

‘I know.’

‘Wait… you mean my own team?’

‘Yeah, I can guess that Ken Amada is or was one of them…’

‘I was that obvious?’

‘Desperate more like it…’

‘I suppose if this makes you stop stalling…’

‘Um, it will?’

‘Good enough… so you want to hear about Ken?’

‘Or that girl you tattled about Shujin too…’

‘Minako… she’ll be for another time.’

‘Okay, Ken it is…’

‘Amada-senpai, huh?’

‘Well for starters… seeing him through your eyes is a bit odd, given that he was eleven the last time I saw him.’

‘Eleven? That would’ve been six years ago!’

‘That sounds right—’

‘Does that mean he already got had a Persona that young!?’

‘Yes—’

‘That would…’

‘Can you stop interrupting me?’

‘Yes…?’

‘Thank you… now Ken was a very mature boy for an eleven-year-old.’

‘Mature?’

‘Our team, other than Ken, was mostly around your age…’

‘So, you guys were also just a bunch of highschoolers way in over your heads?’

‘Pretty much.’

‘That’s oddly unsurprising.’

‘I know, right? It’s like Igor just plucks us by the look of our uniforms…’

‘Igor—’

‘Don’t ask… and you asked about my team, remember?’

‘Alright, let's stick to Ken.’

‘Ken joined our group for vengeance.’

‘Revenge, for what?’

‘His mother’s death.’

‘Sounds eerily similar to the Futaba I know.’

‘Well… was her source of vengeance in your very own team?’

‘Technically—’

‘Really…? We both managed to gather some interesting people.’

‘You don’t say?’

‘Well that’s enough about Ken, sharing anymore wouldn’t be my place…’

‘That’s it?’

‘That was plenty, you can ask Ken yourself if you want more details.’

‘But no revealing you, right?’

‘You remembered!’

‘You did sound pretty desperate.’

‘Just for that, I’ll give you some extra help!’

‘Which you won’t tell me what it is, right?’

‘Nope.’

Silence followed as dreamless sleep consumed him once more.


[Joker]

RANK UP! Universe Confidant has reached Rank 5.

Fusion Raid: Unlocked Fusion Spells.


Thursday, 26th of May 2016
Rooftop, Shujin Academy
After School

Ren stood on top of the roof by himself staring down to the ground. He saw his teammates figures down below all waving, giving him a thumbs-up or other expressions of encouragement.

Ren sighed audibly, but not audibly enough to be heard down below ‘How did they even find out?’

“Senpai? You called me up here?”

Two figures now stood on the rooftop and the one who had voiced the inquiry was the redheaded Kasumi—

‘Not Kasumi’ Ren reminded to himself, apprehension weighing even heavier on him than it already it.

‘I have to do this…’ Ren steeled himself and came clean “It’s about Maruki-sensei.”

“Oh…” she adopted a crestfallen expression at Ren’s admittance.

Kasumi quickly reverted to a more neutral expression “Um, What about him?”

“Other than being your counsellor, was there anything else you knew about him?”

“Huh, well not much…” she was caught off-guard by the line of questioning, first her senpai called he up to the roof and now he was questioning her about her counsellor.

“Anything would be fine.” Ren gently prodded her knowledge of the mysterious counsellor further.

“Um…” she mentally chided herself for expecting something more ‘I thought inviting someone to the rooftop alone meant something else.’

“Is that what you invited me for?”

“Not exactly…” Ren gulped before dropping another layer of pretences “Really, who are you?”

Kasumi’s eyes widened at the implication with only one shaky word exiting her mouth in response “Senpai?”

“All news regarding that accident about your younger sister… Kasumi Yoshizawa was the one reported to have died.”

Disbelief clouded her eyes “No…”

Ren kept his head aimed straight at her despite his wishing he had turned around, he kept his voice steady and devoid of emotion when delivering a line he had mentally practised “You’re not Kasumi, are you?”

“No!” the one who went by ‘Kasumi’ shook her head violently.

“Did Maruki-sensei have something to do with it?” Ren pressed forward, knowing he was well beyond the point of no return already.

“Stop…!” Kasumi clutched her downturned head with both hands “Sumire died… I’m Kasumi…”

“I’m Kasumi… I must be Kasumi!” she insisted what had been the truth, her truth, to Ren and herself. She shook violently

“Hey…!” Ren approached her distraught figure only to be repelled by both her hands.

“I need to be Kasumi!” she practically wailed out.

“Calm down—” Ren began before wincing at his own words ‘When did saying that ever work?’

“No! If I’m not Kasumi that means…” the redhead girl’s knees gave up and rested on the ground instead of staying upright.

“That means—” Ren lost any words to say at the sight of Kasumi’s apparent breakdown.

“Kasumi would’ve died for nothing!” she screamed unhindered despite her posture being planted on the ground by her knees.

“She would’ve died a pointless death otherwise…” her distressed soliloquy continued.

“I need to… I am Ka—” only to be interrupted by Ren wrapping his arms around her huddled form.

Ren acted absent of thought.

“Senpai?”


Down below in the courtyard of the school were the fellow Phantom Thieves, barring their leader, loitering about. Other than the newly acquired member, Yusuke, all of the members that were present during their takedown of Kamoshida were hanging about. Ren even left Morgana behind with the rest of them, wanting to be alone for his encounter above.

A blonde boy leaned against the wall as he queried the others “So Ren’s up there with some girl?”

“Not just some girl, its Sumire Yoshizawa! She’s a first-class rhythmic gymnast!” excitement leaked from Shiho’s voice, admiration clearly evident in her voice.

“Okay, so she’s a really good athlete… so?” everyone sighed at Ryuji’s exasperatedly lost face.

Goro began repeating what he had informed everyone else before “The Echoes of… those two girls we fought in the Palace mentioned a name.”

“Maruki-sensei, correct?” Yuuki provided.

Ryuji’s face lit up at the name, seemingly remembering it from before “…and this Sumire girl knows this guy?”

“Ren certainly believes so.” The second leader of the Phantom Thieves confirmed what everyone already knew.

They had been awaiting any progress regarding the Echoes before they returned to Madarame’s Palace. Time was on their side, yet Ren seemed adamant about completing the task before the end of the plagiarist's art exhibit.

“They’ve been up there for a while now…” Ann idly thought aloud.

Yuuki looked up towards the school’s roof “Is Maruki-sensei all they’re really talking about?”

“Well… the two of them are rather picturesque together.” Goro lamented, somewhat disappointed that Ren had denied his offers of advice.

“Pic-what?”

“You’ll see when the two of them are next to each other.” and at that moment all their phones rang simultaneously. It could only mean two things, either Yusuke had decided to message them about Madarame once again or Ren finally had an update for all of them.


[PT#H]

Ren              I’m going to Shibuya.

Ren             Going into Mementos with Yoshizawa.

[PT#H]


Everyone turned their gazes away from their phones and the first one to speak was Shiho, an uncertain quiver present in her voice “…we all read the same thing, right?”

“What the hell is he thinking!” Ryuji for his part didn’t hold back any apprehension.

“He’s not answering back…” Ann flooded the group chat with messages of concern and requests clarification, all which were all silently ignored by their leader.

“What happened up there?” Goro muttered to himself but it was a line of thinking that everyone below shared.

“Should we go after them?”

“We have too!” Morgana piped up. Being a cat certainly made it difficult to be a part of group chat discussions but if their leader was in danger, there was no choice more obvious than the chase.

“I agree, we can’t just let Ren take someone without a Persona…” Goro raised a pertinent point.

“Cat! Do you know if that Sumire has a Persona!?” Ryuji grabbed the bag that Morgana hid in with abrupt force.

“How should I know? I’ve never seen her in the Metaverse.” Morgana stated what had seemed obvious. The two descended into bickering regarding inane subjects such as Morgana’s true nature and Ryuji’s brain size.

Shiho, surprising everyone, was the one who raised her voice “This is pointless, he wouldn’t send us that message if he didn’t want us to follow!”

Goro grinned at the sight of two boys made silent ‘She’s pretty good at this.’

“Shiho’s right, we’ll go after them!”


Shadowing two students wasn’t what Ken thought he’d be doing with his day but after seeing Makoto’s idea of covert, Haru and himself prohibited the student council president from stalking anyone at all. Her idea of stealth was following people around with a book barely obscuring her face if it did at all.

‘It was kinda cute though…’ Ken immediately shook his head at the thought as he refocused his attention to the suspicious secretary.

He had been tailing his fellow student council member the whole day which lead to him steaking him out on the roof which he had encountered the redheaded girl Ken had met during his first week.

‘Kasumi… I think?’

Ken didn’t dwell on that girl’s name as the boy he was stalking came racing down from the roof with redhead in tow. Ken was fairly certain that the two hadn’t noticed him, at least the speed at which they ran told him so. He was quick to follow the two as they made their way to the nearest train station.


The day had been an interesting one for Kasumi—

‘No, I’m Sumire!’

She chided herself with a slap to her own cheeks.

‘Senpai accepts Sumire.’

She shook her face that had once again begun to camouflage itself along with her hair.

‘I should be able to do the same…’

A different line of thought crossed her mind as she turned to the person she stood beside in the crowded train carriage “Where are we going…?”

Ren discreetly handed her his phone with the message “Someone’s following us” typed out.

“What?” shock encroached her face ‘A stalker?’

Ren audibly sighed at her volume and intimately approached her to whisper “Don’t be too loud.”

He took his phone out of her hands and typed in a new message “I barely noticed it when we were the roof…”

‘Aaahhh!’ she barely registered what he did given how close the two as her internal screaming started following the shade of her face.

Ren took no notice of the girl’s discomfort and proceeded to type in a new message “Someone was listening in to us up there.”

‘And that wasn’t Makoto.’ Ren recalled Makoto’s attempts to be discreet. The fact that he could recall it at all was reason enough to dismiss her as a proficient stalker ‘Anyone would’ve noticed Makoto stalking them.’

“S-Senpai!” Sumire hadn’t even bothered to read it as she was in, practically, her senpai’s embrace.

Ren still hadn't’ notice what was so bothersome about the predicament “We need to keep a low profile until we reach our stop at Shibuya.”

“Can you do that for me, Sumire?” his voice was soft despite the severity of a stalker tailing them both.

She nodded and gave out a similarly soft reply “…yes.”

Only then did Ren noticed the compromising position the two had wrapped themselves in. He had the courtesy to return the flushed face she was giving him but that was as far as he went. Placing distance between them was impossible given the train carriage had become even more crowded than when they first entered.

Ren adjusted his collar awkwardly, red face still in full display “We’re almost at our stop…”

“Are you ready? You wanted to do this, right?”

Sumire nodded “Y-Yes, but I still don’t know what you…”

“Maruki-sensei did something to make you forget, didn’t he?” Ren “Or at least believe in a… different truth.”

‘A change in cognition…’ Ren had already come to a thought that perhaps a similar instance to Futaba’s own circumstances. Yet both Ren and Goro had checked if she had a Palace only to come up empty-handed.

‘Mementos then… if she’s able to see her shadow with her own eyes…’ well that was his line of thought. It was the best he could muster up given the amount of time before the end of the exhibition.

“Things aren’t clear… but I do remember feeling much better after talking to him.” She admitted before wondering once again how her counsellor related to all of this “He didn’t do something wrong did he?”

“We don’t know… but he seems to be associated with unsavoury people.”

“He’s not a bad person!” she insisted.

“We’ll find out eventually.” Ren relented. He didn’t want to make this trip any more awkward, yet he couldn’t help but be cautious about another unknown in the past.

“I asked him to help me forget!” her own words made Sumire gasp aloud, though quiet enough to not catch the attention of the other passengers “Ah!”

“Did you now?”

“I… I think I did.” The realization dawned on her as memories she wanted to be forgotten resurfaced “But, who are these people that Maruki-sensei is associated with?”

“That’s a bit hard to explain out here.”

‘Out here?’

“We’ll be at our stop soon enough.”

‘I hope I’m right about this…’ Ren acknowledged it was dangerous to drag someone unrelated into the Metaverse into Mementos but…

‘If Sumire really had her memories tampered with… even if she asked for it, I can’t leave that be.’ his thought continued ‘By the way she said it… this doesn’t sound at all like Futaba’s own.’

‘She gave her consent… but someone with the ability to alter another’s cognition so thoroughly.’ Ren bit his lip. The prospect of such a person being an enemy would’ve made him quake in his shoes had he heard of it before travelling back from the future-past.

‘Sumire at least believes him to be a just man—’ he recalled Sae Niijima’s circumstances, despite having a Palace of her own, she still came to their aid.

He peered over his shoulder a final time as he grabbed onto Sumire’s hand as they disembarked the train. Amongst the crowd exiting the train alongside them, none seemed to be following the two species in Ren’s eyes, but a chill rushed down his spine regardless.


Tailing the two had been more difficult than Ken had expected, the crowded metropolis of Tokyo was even more formidable than he had been informed by Mitsuru-senpai.

‘A difference in perspective’ he considered briefly, still quietly trailing his two suspects. As Ken maintained his distance, he noticed that the two ascended the station’s steps and searched for a secluded area.

Their student council secretary scoured the area, his head swinging about, for anyone that may have followed the both of them to no avail. Ken kept his distance as the boy pulled out his phone.

Ken intently eavesdropped and caught a mechanical voice stating, “Beginning navigation.”

‘What?’ Ken had little time to wonder where the voice had come from as at that moment the world distorted in red and black before him and an eerily familiar feeling crept up his entire being.

‘This feeling… a Shadow nest?’ Tartarus flashed to Ken’s mind, reminding him of the endlessly oppressive atmosphere.

Taking in the change of environment was staggering, everyone had disappeared in the bustling Shibuya. There was not a sign of them being there in the first place… it was as if they had not just vanished, it seemed like they weren’t even there to begin with. The cityscape was all similar except with the aforementioned missing sign of human life, other than Ken himself.

Then, the rumbling of a running train from the underground station blared out into the open.

‘Trains…?’ Ken immediately shook his head ‘If this is a Shadow nest, I need to report its existence before going by myself…’

Ken sighed, sparing lingering thoughts to whatever the two he was trailing were up to… ‘I hope those two know what they’re doing…’

He pulled out his phone, imitating what Ren had done earlier before the mysterious voice pulled him in.

“Huh?” clicking on any other application such as his contacts or even camera just outright failed to load. The one app that appeared to light up upon contact was the odd black and red eye symbol from before.

After a brief moment of hesitation, Ken opened the app.

“Would you like to leave the Metaverse?” the same mechanical voice he heard before from Ren’s phone came to life again.

‘So, it is the same tool…’ he didn’t lament on it long enough as he accepted the prompt and suddenly brought back to the reality that Shibuya was indeed a bustling city filled with people.

The citizens didn’t even spare him a glance as if he didn’t just appear from thin air.

‘Odd…’ he turned his gaze towards the app which now identified itself as the Metaverse Navigator.

It also now held one new location by the name of Mementos.

“Previous destinations… Mementos… so is this what the Shadow’s nest in Tokyo is called?” he mused.

The app’s importance was now cemented.

Another, even more, troubling thought entered Ken's mind.

‘Why was it on Makoto and Haru’s phones too…’


Ren dragged Sumire along as they descended the train station within the Metaverse, black and red painted the usually vibrant, well relatively vibrant, scenery.

“What is this place?” Sumire couldn’t help but gawk at the sights and then towards Ren “Senpai, your outfit!”

“Like it?” Ren teased lightly. Something about donning Joker’s mask made the boy take on a wholly different persona, with a lowercase P. His teammates usually commented that he exuded a more confidant air in the Metaverse, which translated to situations like these.

Sumire for her part still hadn’t gotten over their intimate proximity on the train journey and quickly adopted the same flushed expression she wore earlier “Uh-um, i-it looks g-good…!”

Ren shrugged “I’m joking… but does this place seem familiar to you?”

“No… should it be?” Sumire titled her head, confusion evident on her face.

Ren’s face strained at the implication that she’d never been here before ‘This is bad… if she truly knows nothing of this—’ he halted his train of thought, focusing on his attempt of having Sumire remember any aspect of this world.

“This is the Metaverse… a separate reality formed from the cognition of humans.”

“Separate… reality…? Cognition?” loss was clear as day on Sumire’s face at his attempts at even explaining the concept of the Metaverse to her.

Ren grimaced at the growing possibility that he miscalculated about Sumire’s involvement with this otherworld.

At that moment, a tiny yet overloaded car came racing from the distance to greet the masked boy “Big bro!”

“Jose?” Ren recognized the eggshell silver-haired boy immediately and walked up to pat him on the head on instinct.

Jose analysed the new girl curiously “Oh, you brought an ordinary one with you here?”

“An ordinary one…?” Ren’s eyes widened at his choice of words “You mean you can tell if she has a Persona?”

Jose gave a wide grin, proud oh his studies coming up useful “Yep! I don’t remember how I studied this though…”

“So cute…” Sumire for her part was in awe at the adorable energy being emanated by the two with Ren giving the little boy a hearty pat on the head.

Ren didn’t even register what Sumire, his attention hanging at the cusp of the tiny boy’s knowledge “So she isn’t a Persona user?”

“No, but she does have potential.” Jose corrected twiddling his thumbs under Ren’s hand.

“Potential…?”

“It’s what determines if someone can awaken to their Persona.” Jose entered a thinking pose underneath Ren’s hand; he couldn’t quite recall where he had learnt that titbit of information though.

Sumire halted gawking at the two and inquired about the overwhelming absurdity that was the situation she was in starting with— “Persona…? Senpai, what’s going on and who’s this little boy on an adorable car?”

“Jose, nice to meet you big sis!” the silver-haired boy introduced himself earnestly, eyes beaming with curiosity.

“Big sis?” Ren mused Jose’s choice of words.

Sumire wanted to cuddle the cute little boy but restrained herself. It would be improper, too forward, and there was someone else he wanted to do that with right before her already.

She went ahead and introduced herself.

“My name’s Kasumi—”

An interruption struck from seemingly nowhere.

“No, it's not…”

A voice that was eerily similar to Sumire’s own filled the air.

“No…?” the sound of her own voice echoing in the black and red train station shook her more than one would ordinarily think.

Ren’s mind rush through the possibilities of what the ominous voice could be. His body however moved before he could process what his eyes had seen “Sumire, look out!”

The masked leader of the Phantom Thieves lunged in between the Sumire and a shadow silhouette that had made it presence known with a gymnastic ribbon. The ribbon wrapped itself around Ren’s upper body, completely immobilizing him and proceed to rest a bladed weapon on his neck.

‘Wha…? I can’t even move—’ just like his body, his train of thought struggled to come together.

His captor was a familiar face wearing an unfamiliar expression.

It was Sumire.

‘No… not exactly.’

She had the same hair colour and school uniform, but she donned a pair of glasses and had her hair down instead of being tied up in a ponytail.

The most egregious difference was her golden eyes.

“Ah yes, you admitted to Ren the truth of what happened…” the figure spoke in a terrifyingly similar voice to Sumire herself “But you still can’t admit it to yourself.”

“Myself…?” she could only murmur, but denial didn’t encroach her features.

“It’s… your Shadow?” the very situation reminded him of Futaba’s own circumstances, as it did earlier. Yet— “But why now, why here?” he couldn’t wrap his head around the event unfolding rapidly before him.

“I don’t know, Mementos is pretty amazing isn’t it?” the silver-haired boy gleefully added as if pointing another interesting fact about the people’s subconscious.

“Jose… I don’t think amazing is the word I’d use.” Ren writhed as he struggled to deliver a quip.

Sumire’s voice quivered at the violent escalation “Senpai… what’s going on?”

“So you really don’t know anything…” each word exiting Ren’s mouth was strained both by the Shadow’s grip and the dawning realization of his miscalculation “This is my mistake… I thought—”

Ren gave out a loud yelp, pain evident in the tone and his face. The shadow tightened its ribbon's grasp on the bound boy, grinning in vapid pleasure at the act.

“Big brother!”

“Senpai!”

“Can you just shut up with—” Sumire’s shadow scowled began its barrage of complaints directed specifically towards her other self “Senpai this, Senpai that… it's grating!”

“Just come out with it already!” the shadow drops the bladed weapon, now clearly identifiable as a rapier, to the ground.

She cups his face, much to the horror of her regular counterpart.

Sumire’s shadow leans onto the bound boy…

And steal Ren’s lips with her own.

“Oh, how we’ve wanted to do just that!” elation danced on the shadow’s face.

‘Huh?’ the taste of a shadow’s lips felt oddly normal to him, then again, he’d never really considered what they were made of.

“I don’t think I’ve studied this before…” Jose attention was entrapped by the act, mentally noting to study it in the future.

“Y-you’re wrong!” Sumire on the other hand protested.

“Am I now?” the shadow’s mocking tone was not lost to anyone in the vicinity “Isn’t Ren the only one we’ve admitted the truth to?”

“Because face it, even you can’t admit it to yourself…”

Distraught painted Sumire’s visage “I-I…” her words failing her completely.

‘Did I enjoy that?’ Ren groggy thoughts swashed about in his mind as he surveyed his surroundings after the disorientating liplock.

“I…? I what?” the shadow continued to taunt her.

Jose tugged at Sumire’s sleeve “Are you okay big sis?”

Ren finally lucid enough, opened his mouth to speak “Sumire…”

A faint glimmer of hope resided in the redhead’s eyes “Senpai?”

Her shadow, however, was not pleased “Ren, you’re still ignoring me, for her?”

“No… you’re both Sumire.” he continued under his haggard breath “And I’m fine with both of you—” only to be run short of breath.

“Ren/Senpai…” the two Sumire’s spoke yet their voices melded harmoniously into one, even making it difficult for Jose to distinguish who said which without context.

“You’re right…”

“Oh, so you admit it now?” gone was the hostile glance from the shadow as she jibed with her true self.

“I am Sumire!” the girl whose world was turned upside down hours earlier declared “Kasumi is gone—”

“…but we won’t let her dreams die with her, right?” her Shadow finished for her, a genuine smile gracing her lips for the first time.

Sumire nodded.

Accepting what had happened may never become easier, but with someone like him by her side… it just might be.

Sumire offered her hand to her golden-eyed doppelganger “Thank you…”

“Thank yourself.” her Shadow reached out for her hand and as the two near-identical people reached out with outstretched arms.

Ren for his part was let loose from his gymnastic bindings and crashed unceremoniously on the ground.

Both Sumire’s hands reached out and came together but, surprisingly, no collision occurred.

Shadow Sumire instead began to fade from sight.

Slowly being turning into nothingness as she reaches ever closer to Sumire.

And—

“She’s gone…” Sumire’s words felt wrong to her own tongue somehow. Like she had told a blatant lie, as it did indeed feel like that mirror-image of herself never even left.

Ren’s attention was focused on Sumire for a completely different reason “Look at you, nice outfit.”

“Huh?” she jumped in surprise at her Senpai’s offhand comment and looked down to her astonishment.

Sumire no longer wore the Shujin academy uniform as it was replaced with her Metaverse outfit instead. She wore a strapless black leotard underneath a similarly black bolero jacket with ruffled sleeves and three coattails that extended near to the floor.

Notably, to Ren, she did not have the distinctive mask all the thieves wore.

“Wha! When did I put this on!” she gripped her forearms, crossing them over her chest, in embarrassment.

‘I suppose this is like Futaba’s case then…?’ Ren harkened his mind back to Futaba’s awakening which involved her coming to terms with the truth with her Shadow’s work.

“Oh, big sis looks like she’s partially awakened!” Jose commented.

‘With a bit of Haru, given she hasn’t summoned her Persona yet.’ Ren took Jose’s comment into account. The lack of mask being an indicator that she didn’t awaken her Persona just yet similar to the penultimate member of the Phantom Thieves ‘I never did ask Morgana for the details on that…’

The atmosphere, despite the disappearance of Sumire’s Shadow, was still heavy.

“So… about that—” and the aforementioned girl attempted to bring it up.

Only to fail to find the appropriate words.

Fortunately, or not, Jose was able to find what to say for her.

“Lip touching! I’m very curious about it!” the egg-shell haired boy jumped excitedly “I haven’t studied it before.”

Both the teens had their faces glow red at the reminder.

Ren touched his lips, the taste of her lips was still fresh on his own.

Even if they were a Shadow’s.

Now he was quite curious about the original article and stole a sideways glance at the girl beside him.

Sumire wasn’t faring any better even if she technically wasn’t the one who had kissed him.

“U-uhaaa…” incoherent sputtering was her reply to the curious boy.

Ren quick on his feet thought of an excellent excuse.

“We’ll uh, tell you when you’re older.”

“Hmm, it’s a time-gated study?” he rested his chin in his curled hand and quickly acquiesced “Okay then, see you later big bro!”

He hopped on his tiny car and turned around one more time and waved goodbye “You too big sis!”

And just like that, he was gone from sight.

Now the air between the two became thicker than before.

Sumire decided to pierce through it first.

“Senpai—" she gulped “C-could you just pretend this didn’t happen!?”      

“Huh?”

Sumire began flailing her arms around, emotively displaying her confusion at the escalating situation “So much happened so fast… the Metaverse… my Shadow… this outfit…!”

“I…” she bit her lower lip, apprehension evident “Um…”

“I want to tell you properly!” eyes shut, and arms straightened, she admitted with a shout.

Ren grew a placid smile, keeping his calm demeanour intact.


[Joker]

RANK UP! Faith Confidant has reached Rank 5.


“Alright, I’ll hold off being excited for now.”

Ren, however, felt like he was forgetting something.

‘Why are we here again?’ that train of thought was interrupted by the arrival of the rest of the Phantom Thieves practically swarming both of them.

“Joker!”


Friday, 27th of May 2016
LeBlanc Café, Yongen-Jaya
After School

The aftermath of Ren and Sumire’s excursion into Mementos was a hot topic of discussion for the thieves, much to the overwhelmed Sumire. The Phantom Thieves dispersed for the day as they let the newly awakened Persona-user sleep on the deluge of information she had been bombarded with. That was ignoring her devastating revelation of her own identity and the role that her counsellor might have in the oddities in the Metaverse.

Ren for his part kept his distance from Sumire, as the bravado he displayed in Mementos the day before drained away quickly. The kiss, even if it was with her shadow, had rattled him despite his outwardly cavalier attitude afterwards. Still, she was receptive to the idea of aiding the Phantom Thieves if only for seeking out the truth behind Takuto Maruki.

It was a good enough reason for him.

‘Futaba joined for similarly personal reasons as well…’

Thinking of the orange-haired girl reminded him that she had tapped the entirety of LeBlanc. He’d have to deal with her sooner this time around, hopefully to much better results.

Ren’s phone shook loudly on his desk.

Morgana, who was quietly pacing in their room, reacted immediately to the ringing by nudging their leader out of his sea of thoughts.

[PT#H]

Goro            We’ve just finished briefing Yusuke on the newest recruit.

Ann             Briefing? It wasn’t that serious!

Ann             And Sumire-chan hasn’t even unlocked her Persona yet, right?

Yusuke        Still though, to think you’d find a new member this quickly.

Yusuke        You run a very efficient ship, Ren.

It was an unexpected side-effect. Ren

And unfortunately, I wasn’t able to learn more about Maruki-sensei. Ren

Ryuji           We still don’t got any leads on that guy!?

Shiho          Yuuki found something about him online!

Yuuki          Apparently, he researched something called Cognitive Science?

Shiho          No, it was Psience.

Shiho          But other than that, we couldn’t get anything other than that.

Shiho          No papers, no records, it’s was odd…

Cognitive Psience… Ren

Are you certain? Ren

Yuuki          Very, we can give you the source later.

Ryuji           Cognitive Psience? Sounds totally made up to me…

Goro            Hello everyone, apologies for my lateness.

Goro            Cognitive Pscience? No, this is dangerous…

Agreed. Ren

The very nature of the Metaverse is cognitive in nature. Ren

Ryuji           For real!? This is real bad then, ain’t it?

Ann             Shiho? Yuuki? There must be something else you found out!

Yuuki          Sorry everyone, there really wasn’t anything else there.

Shiho          There wasn’t much mention of his official research.

Shiho          The information we got was a minor footnote from a publication.

Yuuki          I don’t want to be conspiracist…

Ryuji           He’s gonna be conspiracist.

Yuuki          But I feel like they hid his research!

Yusuke        That would certainly be an interesting turn of events.

Yusuke        If such a man was involved in the Metaverse long before us…

Ann             And he’s involved with those doppelgangers somehow.

Goro            Echoes.

Ann             Right, Echoes.

Goro            Aren’t we missing someone in this group chat?

Goro            Or is Ren still hiding her from us?

Ryuji           Yeah! You still haven’t told us what you two were doing yesterday!

It’s not my place to say. Ren

It’d be best to wait for Sumire to share… Ren

Goro            Alright then.

Wait, what? Ren

No! Ren

<Sumire Yoshizawa has been added to PT#H>

Goro            Welcome.

Ryuji           Yo!

Ann             Hiya!

Shiho          She’s here, hello Yoshizawa-san.

Yuuki           Hello!

Yusuke        Ah, the other new member.

Sumire        Thank you, everyone!

Sumire        Is Ren-senpai here too?

I’m here, Sumire. Ren

Sumire        😊

Ann             Yoshizawa-san, what happened between you and our leader yesterday?

Shiho          Yeah, Ren is being tightlipped about it.

Sumire        Ah, uhm… I don’t think I can…

Don’t say anything you don’t want to. Ren

I’ll wait. Ren

Ryuji           So something did happen.

Yusuke        I too am curious as to what had transpired before we arrived.

Goro, please? Ren

Goro            Very well.

Goro            No more bothering either our leader or newest member about it.

Goro            Understood?

Ann             Alright.

Shiho          Ok.

Yuuki           Understood!

Yusuke        I see no reason not to comply.

Goro            Ryuji?

Ryuji? Ren

Ryuji           You two aren’t secretly dating or somethin’?

Ryuji           Just getting that feeling.

Get anymore ‘feelings’ and Skull will be out of commission. Ren

Ryuji           What? C’mon, I’m just spitballin’ here!

Until further notice. Ren

Ryuji           Fine… Renren.

Sumire        Renren… is that Ren-senpai’s nickname!?

Sumire        That is so cute!

…cute? Ren

Ryuji           I know, right?

Ryuji           It really suits him, I came up with it myself.

Sumire        That’s amazing, Sakamoto-senpai!

Ann             Sakamoto-senpai?

Ryuji           Don’t mind… but, Sakamoto-senpai?

Sumire        Is there something wrong?

I don’t think anyone here but Goro is used to being called Senpai. Ren

We aren’t exactly the most… Ren

Popular of people. Ren

Sumire        But aren’t you all my upperclassmen?

Sumire        And you’re all more experienced in the Metaverse too…

Yuuki          But hearing anyone call me, or any of us, Senpai is a bit…

Goro            It is fine, and aren’t we deviating too much from the main topic?

Goro            We’re here about Maruki-sensei, remember?

Sumire        Is Maruki-sensei really…?

Ryuji           We just heard the guy’s name from some new Echoes.

Sumire        Echoes?

Other Persona users. Ren

Not friendly. Ren

Ryuji           They ain’t just Persona users!

Ryuji           One of them looked exactly like Renren!

Yuuki          And another like Goro-senpai!

Sumire        Another Ren-senpai?

Goro            There’s still are a lot of things we don’t know about.

Goro            However, looking into Takuto did unearth interesting developments.

Sumire        So he’s really…

Shiho          We don’t know for certain, but he seems involved with the Metaverse…

Our position is precarious. Ren

But, we still need to act sooner than later. Ren

We can no longer afford to delay reentering Madarame’s Palace. Ren

Even if we are lacking in information… Ren

Goro            We still don’t know when those Echoes will show up once more.

Ann             We’ll be ready this time! They won’t get the jump on us again!

Sumire        The Echoes… they know something about Maruki-sensei?

Sumire        I won’t be a burden in the Metaverse…. will I?

Of course not. Ren

Given your circumstances, you are close to awakening. Ren

If you need some reassurance, hmm… Ren

‘Sakomoto-senpai’ didn’t awaken until his second trip to the Metaverse. Ren

Ryuji           Hey! Not cool!

Ryuji           And stop it with the Sakamoto stuff… just call me Ryuji.

Ryuji           That goes to you especially, Sumire.

Sumire        Got it, Ryuji-senpai!

Yuuki          So, when are we going back to the Palace?

Yusuke        I want to know too, Sensei must be made to answer for his crimes.

Tomorrow. Ren

[PT#H]


Saturday, 28th of May 2016
Museum of Vanity, Metaverse
Morning

The party of eight, nine if one were to take notice of the cat perched in Ren’s bag, gathered before the gaudy golden museum.

Morgana, now in his plushier form, directed his notice to the two newcomers “Oh yeah. We haven’t decided on our new recruits’ codenames yet.”

Ann focused her gaze on Yusuke mask “It has to be ‘Kitsune’. You know, with that kitsune mask and everything.”

“Hell yeah. That really leaves an impression.” Ryuji hopped in the conversation.

Yusuke stared at the blondes, perplexed at their conversation “Are you talking about me?”

“What do you want your name over here to be?” Ann clarified.

Yusuke proceeded to drown himself in deep thought “I’d say ‘Da Vinci’.”

“Nope.” Ryuji crossed his arms, denying the codename immediately “Well, you’ve got that mask like Ann said… and there’s that weird tail…”

The blonde boy smirked to himself before “All right, you’re Abura-age!” as he sounded delightfully pleased by his creation.

Whilst mostly everyone shook their head in disappointment or outright turned away from the blonde boy as if giving off an aura of ‘I have no idea who this is’. Morgana, however, could not help but giggle under his breath at the ludicrousness of it all.

“Very well.” the newly codenamed Abura-age accepted with no argument.

Morgana voiced everyone’s shock at Yusuke’s nonchalance “He’s agreed to it!?”

“It’s decided then: Abura-age.” Ryuji verbally patted himself on the back.

“Nuh-uh! Not happening!” Ann stepped in immediately, dragging the boy by the ear “Anyone else have any other ideas?”

“Fox?” Yuuki offered.

“Huh, fitting.” Goro nodded sagely, to which Yuuki and Shiho imitated.

“What do you think, Fox?” Morgana offered, stressing his potential nickname with a detectable tonal shift.

“It’s acceptable.” Yusuke replied with the same nonchalance he had displayed before.

“That’s done, now for her…” and everyone’s eyes were on the youngest newcomer to the team.

Sumire cheeks grew rosy at the attention “Um, I actually don’t get what just happened…”

“Codenames!” Ryuji emotively raised his arms “It’d be totally lame if the Phantom Thieves just went around using our regular names!”

“Oh…!” Sumire quietly nodded as everyone turned their attention to their black-haired leader.

Goro spoke up first, using his role as the second-in-command to prompt him to action “You’ve spent the most time with her, Joker… what do you think her name should be?”

“Violet.” Ren didn’t skip a beat as he uttered the colour. He’d already given this some thought ever since he’d seen her shadow with both of his eyes.

Goro frowned suspiciously “That was fast… why?”

“Oh, I get it— it’s the English word for her name, right?” Ann interjected, connecting the dots between the codename and the recruit’s real name.

“Yeah…”

Sumire’s directed a steady gaze towards Ren, one filled with a bit of awe and a bit of thankfulness “Violet… please use it! Thank you, Ren—”

“Codenames.” Ren strictness as the leader came out in full.

“Ah yes, Joker-senpai! Thank you.” she rapidly corrected herself.

The rest of the team watch the exchange in earnest, though some were more willing to voice their observations than others.

Ryuji being foremost “You two sure there ain’t—”

“Skull…” a low growl escaped Ren’s lips, a prelude to a firm warning.

“Got it!” Ryuji immediately stiffened at the tonal shift Ren employed.

The assembled thieves, all nine of them, shared a common purpose despite not all having a collective drive to their purpose. Ren took command of them all once more, bringing to attention to another important detail “Next on the agenda is how we will divide our teams…”

Everyone but the new recruits understood where their leader was taking them which made it predictable that the two newcomers would be the ones to raise their voice.

“Divide?” Sumire apprehension seeped through her voice.

“Teams?” Yusuke for his part was simply curious.

“We operate in two teams, one lead by Joker and the other by Crow.” Morgana detailed for them, pointing towards both boys as he referred to each.

“The division allows us to cover more ground and finish in a timelier manner.” Ren continued for the plushy feline and detailed the manners in which the teams they lead differed “Crow’s team is typically the first to the action whilst my team trails behind… in case they trigger any unnecessary traps that might need outside help to disable.”

“Team assignments, anyone daring to get caught in a laser grid trap again?”

The previous squad of three that had been caught adopted looks of shame on their faces, even Goro had the courtesy to look downward alongside his teammates. Their reaction was predictable, which meant the team formation was going to be similarly predictable to Ren as well.

“I’ll make sure it won’t happen ever again!” Morgana was the first to raise his voice among the previous team, insisting on his place on the same formation once again.

Goro smiled at Morgana’s prideful antics “Can’t say no to that.” as Goro himself nodded in agreement, a desire to prove that they weren’t prone to such failures resonated between the two.

“I’d want to have a go at it again… if you don’t mind.” Cloud meekly requested to reform the previous strike team that had gotten caught in the trap.

Before either Ryuji or Ann could jump in to fill the final spot, Yusuke beat them to the punch.

“I would like the opportunity to join as well, this may give me a chance to face my Sensei’s Shadow much sooner…”

The two blondes face faulted as they realized them had been one-upped by the newest recruit of all people. However, before either could lodge a complaint Ren interjected with his mild congratulation.

“That rounds them out.” he instinctively turned around to where Yuuki would be standing at the moment despite his invisible visage “Ghost, you know what to do already?”

Yuuki quickly returned an affirmative “Roger, Joker!”

“Very well… Mona, Cloud, Fox.” the three moved forward at Goro’s command.

“Let’s move.”


Ren’s team reconvened around the area that Ryuji and himself had disabled before and by the lowered Shadow presence in the area, Goro’s team had already blitzed their way past. A noticeable improvement from last time was a much more active shadow presence indicating that Goro’s team actually left behind some as instructed instead of blatantly going everything on sight like last time.

“Heh, at least they’re leaving stragglers behind this time.” Ann commented on the existing presence of Shadows compared to days prior.

“And I didn’t even have to remind them.” Ren contemplated happily, perhaps “Maybe I don’t need to worry as much this time?”

“Maybe Fox is a good presence on their team?” Ann presupposed loudly, laying her idea bare to the scrutinization of the rest of the team.

‘Eh…’ Ren would’ve aired some choice words about what he knew about Yusuke but decided otherwise.

Ryuji, being attentive at someone other than Ann for the moment, voiced his concern over the newest recruit on their team “Hey Violet, you okay? You’ve been pretty quiet.”

Sumire jolted at the question, unsure how to respond “Uh-um…” she instead just sputtered out with no rhythmic reason.

Ann put herself between Ryuji and Sumire “Oi Skull, don’t start bothering Violet already!”

Ryuji raised his hands defensively before his chest “H-hey, it ain’t like that!”

“Don’t blame him Panther-senpai.” Sumire went to the defence of blonde boy “He was just showing concern…”

“I-I can’t fight like everyone else can, I have this outfit but no Persona.” she didn’t even bother to meet anyone’s gaze “I was so eager to help… but I’m just a burden aren’t I—”

“Shut up!” Ryuji couldn't stand the self-deprecating party any longer.

“Skull!” Ann reprimanded.

Only for Ryuji just to raise his voice even louder “Everyone, shut up!”

Ann raised her clenched had against Ryuji only to have her arm locked in Ren’s grip. Their leader silently allowed Ryuji to continue to get to his point ‘And provide proper consequences if this was to turn unsatisfactory.’

Ryuji didn’t spare anytime searching for the right words “I getcha, I know how it feels to look at the sidelines—”

“Remember when Joker mentioned that I didn’t immediately awaken to my Persona?” despite the embarrassing words exiting Ryuji’s mouth, he held steady and divulged details of that day “It was even worse than that, I had to spend my entire time waiting behind Joker and Mona.”

“I just tagged along, convinced I could do something good for once… but…” he trailed off.

“Captain Kidd only answered me after we had been cornered…” he reassured her “So don’t sweat it, ok?”

“Whoever yours is, I’m sure they’ll answer you soon enough if you keep hanging around with this guy.” Ryuji wrapped his arm around Ren, keeping what their leader had said during that intense moment to himself.

Ann, who moments earlier was ready to knock Ryuji senseless, wore a wide smile instead “I didn’t know you could say stuff that soft, Skull!” and gave the boy a light jab as she wrapped her arms around his single free arm.

Sumire spirits raised at both the words and the sight of both the blondes.

“Thank you, Skull-senpai…”


Goro’s lead his team through a door like so many before inside the museum but the severe environmental shift was glaringly bright.

“What is this place?” Goro eyes were drawn to the assortment of staircases leading to whichever way they so pleased.

‘Why does this seem… familiar?’ once again the feeling of uncertain nostalgia washed over him, an internal dread haunting his being at the possibilities of who he was before he had established his life in this time.

Shiho shielded her eyes from the gaudy glow “There’s so much gold…! It’s hurting my eyes…”

“The distortion is especially bad here… It’s barely even holding up.” Morgana frowned after he assessed the precarious nature of the change in setting.

“Navigating here seems impossible too!” even their resident support Yuuki couldn’t ascertain where they were in the Palace’s schema. Even access to basic navigation such as mapping became nigh unusable in the environment.

Yusuke was entirely unfazed by the odd architecture and sprayed staircases “So we must ascertain the truth through our eyes alone…”

Shadows patrolled the narrow corridors and staircases even more relentlessly than before, but it was no different than dealing with the ones they had encountered before. The newest oddity that had entered their sights were the familiar paintings scattered about their path.

“Wait… isn’t that the Sayuri?” Morgana brought it to the forefront of everyone’s mind.

“Isn’t this one too?” Shiho pointed to another painting, this one with an azure coat on instead of the crimson on the first.

“They’re all counterfeits… aren’t they?” Morgana pondered.

“Not all of them—” Yuuki’s contribution was cut short by the artist himself.

“This one, it’s the true depiction of the Sayuri…”

“Well done!” A voice from up high practically sneered out “It would’ve been shockingly embarrassing had you been trapped in this poor distortion.”

“You!”

“It’s… Crow?” Yusuke stared in disbelief, his mind filling in the blanks with what Goro had informed him days prior another Echo?’

“Ghost, inform Joker about this development immediately!” Goro barked out.

“Roger!” and with that, Yuuki’s presence had disappeared completely from the area as he planned to relay the escalating situation to Ren,

“Sendings one of your own away? Poor choice from myself.”

“I’m not you!” Goro denied vehemently.

“Oh I know, you can’t even remember this specific distortion even when you’ve been here before.” the Echo jibed with Goro.

That one had stung “Been… here… before?”

“Ah, still can’t remember huh?” the rampant mocking continued “Well, I’m not here for a fight today.”

Despite the deescalating choice of words from the Echo, he adopted a maniacal grin that conveyed the exact opposite. He drew a small weapon hidden on his person and for the briefest of moments, the intruder’s visage changed from the identical princely garb that Goro wore to a darker, demented outfit with distinctive contours on display.

Goro’s Echo drew the silenced pistol on full display and lined it up with his Phantom Thief counterpart “So I’ll give you a reminder!”


‘Kunikazu Okumura…’ This feeling again… another lost memory?

‘Perfectly set up for this fall, ah but pity is for the poor.’ Where is this taking place?

‘Orchestrated for months… he’s long outlived his usefulness.’ Set up… Orchestrated… wait, wasn’t he—

The memory shifts away into the Metaverse.

‘A spaceport, how droll.’ I’m in a Palace it seems…

‘And his employees as replaceable machinery… how predictable.’ A typical despicable adult indeed.

‘Navigating this under their noses will be a bother.’ Whose noses am I referring too?

The memory drowns away and is replaced by the sight of the Phantom Thieves surrounding a man with a fishbowl for a helmet.

‘Warning: self-destruct imminent.’ Seems like whatever Palace this was before

‘We don’t have time to get that outta him!’ Ryuji being the voice of reason… how odd.

‘We’ll just have to inquire about it back in the real world.’ Makoto with actual reasoning behind her words, as expected.

‘Shouldn’t we bring Father with us!?’ Father! How did I miss that… though Haru doesn’t speak of familial matters at all with me.

‘Don’t worry, he’ll be fine! We’ll end up dead if we’re not out here soon though!’ Morgana, as blunt as always.

‘Only you can follow through on your own responsibilities…’ Haru’s wisdom belies her age as it always did.

‘That is what you’ve taught me, Father.’ Wait… how do I know what going on? Am I… spying on them?

‘They’re finally gone.’ What am I doing… no… no!

A bullet pierced the Shadow’s chest This is the same gun…

‘My… uto… pia…’ I killed her father… I killed her father…

A bullet pierced the Shadow’s skull ‘I killed Haru’s father…’

‘Hehe…’ I’m the Black Mask…


“Stop losing your shit idiots, my doppelganger is fine… see?” the bored clone berated the thieves below as he sensed his other self had begun to regain consciousness.

“Crow’s waking up!” Morgana cradled the brown-haired boy’s head as best he could as he rose from the dishevelled state.

“That’s what I just said…”

“Bastard! What was that about!” Shiho was positively enraged but was held back by the sight of their downed leader. He couldn’t in good faith rush down the enemy, and she was certain he was an enemy, whilst leaving Goro downed and on the brink of collapse.

“I’m just here to tell your little team that our Queen and Noir were acting out of line…” Goro’s Echo started walking away from his perch “The bank… that’s a different story and you’d better come prepared…”

Goro paid no heed the retreating figure nor did he listen to the worried platitudes of his teammates. The only thing his mind’s eye could see were the hands before him.

‘So that… this is who I am…’


“Joker!” the distressed signal that everyone had come to identify with Yuuki blared all four thieves’ ears. Especially to the shock of Sumire, who had not experienced such a greeting before.

“Huh, Ghost?” Ren maintained his composure yet missed the urgency of the navigator’s tone “What do you have to re—”

“Emergency, we’ve just run into an Echo!”

Ryuji jumped at the ready, excited to deliver some form of payback “Those girls are back!?”

“No, its Crow’s Echo!” Yuuki clarified.

“Crow… like back in Kamoshida’s Palace?” Ann though loudly.

“We need to hurry!”

“Why the rush?” before the thieves could even begin to make a mad dash, the silhouette of someone all too familiar came into view.

“Wait—”

“Joker-senpai?” Sumire couldn’t help but be drawn to the other Ren. ‘Two of Ren-senpai…’

“I don’t ever remember having such an adorable underclassman…” he smirked at himself, or at least his lookalike, and continued to dart light humour across “You’ve been holding out on me, haven’t you?”

“Keep your guard up, everyone!” Ren reminded his team as Ryuji and Ann began to feel antsy at the focus the Echo was placing on their least combat-ready member.

“No need to be so serious.” the Echo brushed their stiff attitude off “I’m just here to keep you away from Crow for the time being.”

“Apologies about those girls by the way… they missed the memo.” though the look on his face conveyed anything but remorse.

Sumire, after wearing off the novelty of another Ren-senpai, confronted him on the matter that had gotten her involved with the thieves to begin with “Y-You! What do you know about Maruki-senpai!”

“Oh, those girls blabbed out him… didn’t they?”

“That doesn’t matter! What do you know about him!?”

“And why should I tell you?” he just shrugged and goaded her with a flick of his hand “Hm, make me!”

“Or are you all bluster—” he couldn’t even finish his taunt before the thieves surrounded the girl defensively.

“Stay behind us, Violet!”

“Woah, you’re making her—” Ren’s Echo caught on quickly “…I get it, she can’t even fight, can she?”

“How stupid are you? Bringing deadweight into the Metaverse!” he berated them relentlessly, the jovial tone he donned earlier disappearing entirely. Something had definitely enraged him.

“I’ll make you talk…” Sumire’s snarl caught everyone off guard. The hostility she was emanating came out of nowhere, especially for Ren who though he was closest to her.

“Violet?” the black-haired leader couldn’t believe his ears.

The other black-haired boy, the Echo, taunted much more aggressively than before “Oh, the little acrobat has fangs?”

“You will talk!” She reiterated, with drastically more conviction as a black mask with silver highlights had suddenly rested itself on her face.

“Your vision is no longer clouded by that counsellor…”

“Looking out to the world with one’s own eyes after so long.”

“You truly are such an overbearing display for all to see…”

“Though this suits your true self much better.”

“I am thou, thou art I…’

“Prepare the glass slipper…”

“And let us shatter their preconceived notions!”

Sumire grappled with the mask that had found itself on her face and ripped it off to unleash both a torrent of blood and crystalline woman of a Persona behind her.

“Cendrillon…” her Persona took the appearance of a woman with distinctively bright blue crystal legs and a darker sheen on her upper body. She donned a regal soft cape white cape that draped from her shoulders to her waist. Her head was adorned with short blonde hair that was tied neatly by a large blue bow.

“Yeah, let’s go Violet!” Ryuji couldn’t help but feel vindicated at his earlier advice.

“She did it!” Ann celebrated alongside him.

“Congratulations…” Ren offered his own quiet praise behind the two blondes.

“Oh, pretty…” Ren’s Echo gave as sincere of a compliment as he could “Let’s see how it can match up with mine—” before he unleashed his own.

“Moriarty” A near completely identical copy of Arsene rose from behind Ren’s Echo.

‘No… not exactly…’ the Echo’s Arsene, or Moriarty as he called it, distinctly had two differently coloured wings perched on its back. One black, like his own Arsene, yet the other was clear white.

‘Did I miss something like this with the two previous Echoes as well?’ his memory regarding the visual detail of his team’s Persona wasn’t too clear.

“Oh, finally a real fight!” Ryuji had been itching for something to bash in given the ease the trio had ripped through the straggler Shadows so far.

“Four against one is hardly fair, isn’t it?” the Echo wore a wicked grin and drew an all too familiar pistol for Ren “Shouldn’t you get some backup?”

“Moriarty… ravage them! Maeigaon!” the battle opened with the familiar creeping shadows of a curse attack attempting to envelop all four of them from below.

“Ah!” Sumire yelped in pain as she got knocked off her feet.

‘Cendrillon must be weak to Curse attacks… which should mean she has access to Bless attacks!’ Ren helped her up as Ryuji and Ann dove in against his Echo to keep him preoccupied.

“Captain Kidd!” Ryuji rushed in; his blunt metal pipe drawn as he crashed against the Echo’s Persona.

Ann covered him from behind launching a barrage of fireballs “Carmen! Burn him!”

In between the two blonde’s barrages, Sumire had risen with the help from Ren’s hand. No self-pity could be seen on her face at the manner she had so easily went down first.

“I’ll do better, just watch!” she reassured before pulling off her mask once more to summon her Persona “Cendrillon! Kouga!”

In direct contrast to the earlier Maeigaon used by Ren’s Echo, a pillar of light ascended from beneath her target with enough force to leave said Echo knocked off his feet.

“Oof… that hit the spot—” his lament was short lived as Ren had already gotten over his doppelganger, pistol aimed squarely at the downed boy’s temple.

“Maybe you should stop being so talkative?” Ren mocking offered some advice, not particularly pleased at hearing his own voice from such a poor imitation.

“I gotta make up for both us, hehe…” a confident smirk painted itself on his double’s face.

It was well deserved.

A screeching arrow came into view and blasted Ren away from his Echo.

“We’re leaving.” Goro’s commanding tone was heard.

Ren’s Echo dusted himself off the ground “Oh, already finished on your end?”

“We won’t interrupt whatever business you have in this fraud’s Palace anymore.” The voice came, unsurprising, from Goro’s Echo as he appeared on the scene. The Echo’s rendition of Robin Hood also featured a minor, nearly unnoticeable, difference with one of the coattails being pure white whilst the other was the regular white and blue.

“…but we cannot guarantee the same in the future.” the two Echoes retreated from the Thieves’ vision.

“Let’s go after them!” despite her bravado, everyone could see that Sumire was struggling to stay on her feet.

“Violet…” Ren placed a hand on her shoulder.

She continued “Maruki-sensei, they know something about—” only to be stopped by herself, collapsing towards the ground only to be caught to Ren before she crashed in her entirety.

“Awakening induced exhaustion… you two are familiar with this already…” Ryuji and Ann nodded, remembering how weakened they felt after the first time they had called upon their Persona. They didn’t completely fall unconscious like the girl before them did though.

“What do we do now?” Ryuji frowned, acknowledging that Sumire was going to be out of commission for the rest of the day.

Ann concurred “We are too close to a complete infiltration route!”

“Indeed…” Ren cradled the girl in his arms before lifting her up in a princess carry “I’ll take Violet out of here whilst you two reconvene with Crow’s team.”

“You sure you’ll be fine?”

“Hey, I’m just carrying her out of here…” Ren assured them not to worry.

“Heh, you just want to spend some more alone time with—” Ryuji’s teasing was cut short by the vice grip of Ann’s fingers on the blonde boy’s ear. She dragged him away despite his pained protests.

Ren spared the scene between the two a hearty chuckle before heading in the opposite direction.


Sunday, 29th of May 2016
Shadow Operatives HQ, ???
Evening

“Ken’s report, we’ve all read it?” a woman with deep red hair chaired the meeting in an unspecified boardroom filled with a colourful cast. Her official CEO-ish attire made her especially stand out in the room filled with seemingly unrelated young adults. Her aura matched her name: Mitsuru Kirijo.

“This development… is troublesome.” a silver-haired man furrowed his brow, deep in thought as his chin rested on both his knuckles. He was better known by everyone in the room as Akihiko Sanada.

“A Shadow Nest in Tokyo itself… is this why Shido barred our operatives from acting in the city?”

“We can’t just let Ken and Koromaru handle this by themselves!” an auburn-haired woman protested indignantly though her worry was shared by everyone in the room.

“Minako, you know we all agree with that…” Mitsuru placated the girl.

“There’s a but incoming, isn’t there?” Minako huffed.

Mitsuru nodded and expanded on the sheer scale of the problem they were facing “Mobilizing rapidly or sending too many operatives would have us caught in a precarious situation.”

“So, what we’re just leaving them—” her complaint was quickly cut short by Mitsuru.

“Certainly not, we just have to settle for a slower approach.”

“Will we be able to afford that?” Akihiko interjected.

“That is the wrong question, we should be asking if Ken and Koromaru can afford such an approach.”

“Indeed…” a deafening silence descended eerily on the room.

“Perhaps we can fast-track certain people into Tokyo undetected.” All eyes turned towards the newest member of the Shadow Operatives, a boy with unkempt dyed brown hair towards the tips as his darker original colour began taking root once again.

“Maybe we can use people already in Tokyo…?” the newest member offered.

“Hanamura-san, you mean those two, don’t you?”

“Yu and Rise are already living together in Tokyo and their connection with us is slim at best considering the last time we all gathered was four years ago.” Yosuke harkened back to the Grand Prix that had drawn the two groups of Persona users together.

“And the bureaucratic red tape only became an insurmountable wall two years ago…” Minako started connecting her own dots as well.

“We’d still need our own operatives down there to coordinate live on the ground.” Mitsuru didn’t let her gaze lift from Yosuke and let the boy squirm under the pressure.

“Yosuke, you’ll be going—”

The youngest in the room rose from his seat “Alone?”

“Labrys will accompany you.” Mitsuru didn’t even take notice of his antics.

“What!?” Akihiko and Minako jointly delivered their surprise.

“Mitsuru, isn’t that dangerous?”

“I am aware…”

“Then why are you—” Minako’s prodding had gotten to the redhead as she cut her off.

“It is exactly because of the severity of the situation that I am sending out Labrys as well!” the redheaded woman’s temper flared before she realised her outburst and recomposed herself before continuing “Do not take this as a simple reckless action, I am merely accounting for the all reasonable scenarios.”

Noting the tense atmosphere in the room, Mitsuru intended to end on an uplifting note “Yosuke has also shown to perform with increased efficacy when partnered with Labrys on field missions.”

“Seriously?! Can everyone give us—me a break with that…”


Monday, 30th of May 2016
Park, Inokashira Koen
Morning

The Phantom Thieves’ excursion on Saturday had concluded uneventfully if one were able to ignore the messages the Echoes delivered to them.

Which they weren’t.

Whilst the Phantom Thieves were still able to secure an infiltration route and planned course of action that was similar to what Ren had devised in the future-past. The messages the Echoes had delivered to them, especially the warning about a potential escalation at a bank had lingered on in Ren’s mind especially. Kaneshiro as a target was already a huge leap for the thieves as they were going after a blackmailing drug trafficker was several magnitudes more terrifying than a plagiarist. The potential that the Echoes might complicate even that had resulted in at least a single sleepless night, much to Morgana’s dismay.

Despite all that, the one thing that worried Ren the most was Goro.

Specifically, the ominous message he had sent to him today.


[Goro Akechi]

Goro            I need to speak with you before we start the cleaning event.

Goro            It’s important, please be early.

[Goro Akechi]


Cleaning Inokashira Park had been the designated task to the student body which was to be led by the Student Council. Goro and Ren being early on the scene was no odd sight especially when Makoto and Ken were already on site before the two had even arrived.

The stiff figure of the brown-haired wildcard came to view for Ren, and he took a sharp breath before beginning his approach “Hey Goro, what’s—”

Goro wasted no time once he saw Ren approaching him and laid what was circling in his mind bare “I’m the Black Mask aren’t I?”

“Huh?” of course Ren knew, he even suspected that this was an inevitability yet seeing how broken Goro had gotten over it was something he was ill-prepared for.

“I retrieved more of my memories…” Goro expanded on the bombshell he had dropped “I’m the one responsible for all these mental shutdowns.”

“Not anymore! You’re not the one responsible for them here.” the black-haired boy jumped to his defence immediately, correcting him on who he had committed the crimes against.

“Yet I still committed them before…” a word was caught on his tongue. ‘Easy…’ how easily he had committed them from his memory was a mystery that he was fearful in solving.

“How did I manage to do this before?” Never before had he felt more of a stranger in his own skin than he did right now “Who am I?”


[Joker]

RANK UP! Justice Confidant has reached Rank 4.


“Goro Akechi.”

The boy who was named Goro Akechi simply shook his head slowly “I don’t think anyone knows who that is…”

Ren sighed, there was no getting to Goro for the time being. The black-haired boy offered a final sentence, hoping that it was at least helpful before going his separate way for his duties in the morning “It’ll be who you make him be.”


The boy who went by the name of Goro Akechi continued with the monotonous responsibilities of the Student Council. Though he made sure he kept a wide berth away from the other members while performing what was expected of him, he didn’t have the energy to even feign normalcy.

“Goro-kun!” an all too familiar high-pitched voice came rushing towards him.

He definitely didn’t have any energy to feign normalcy around her.

Goro dared to set his eyes on the affectionate girlfriend but as soon as his vision came to her entire figure, all he could see was the towering figure of Kunikazu Okumura behind her with the man’s face as it was during his dying moments… pupils gone and black ooze seeping from every orifice.

An uncomfortable lump climbed up his throat.

He wanted to leave, yet at the same time, he wanted to stay.

‘Stay with the girl whose father you murdered for your own ends?’ a voice identical to his own slammed him in his mind.

“I-I’m sorry, Haru.” he shoved her out of her incoming hug and darted away from her.

His mind continued to scream at him, continued to punish him.

The phantom noise was loud enough to drown any other sound.

Loud enough to deafen him from the sound of Haru sobbing he had left behind.


[Crow]

REVERSED! Empress Confidant can no longer proceed until mended.