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Try. Try. Try. Try. Try. Try. Try. Try. Try. Try. Try. Try.

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On his first day at Shujin Academy, Akira brought an umbrella. Caught under an awning with a beautiful girl, he offered it to her.

“What’s this for?” she asked.

“It’s a spare.”

She looked him up and down for evidence of a second umbrella. “No, it’s not.”

“You need it more than me. Just take it.”

He flipped the handle to her, and out of sheer reflex, she caught it. “Hang on, just—what’s your deal?! Or hell, what’s your name?”

“Kurusu,” Akira told her. He’d have time to give her other names later. “I’m a mysterious transfer student.”

Her gorgeous features contorted in confusion, because normal people don’t just announce themselves as mysterious transfer students, but a gray sedan pulled up and interrupted her questions.

“Good morning,” the driver said. “You want me to give you a ride to school? You’re gonna be late.”

Ann hesitated a second, before she gave a strained smiled. “Oh, no thank you! I have an umbrella. Just had to… turn it right-side-out again! I’ll be leaving now!”

“C’mon, the car will be faster,” Kamoshida insisted.

“I’ll take a ride to school. Since you’re offering,” Akira said. He could barely remember a time when he had been afraid of Kamoshida. It had been so long, and he had seen so much worse in the months that followed.

“Sorry, do I know you?” Kamoshida asked sourly. Akira pointed to the crest on his blazer.

Ann unfolded the borrowed umbrella. “Please, give Kurusu-kun a ride, I don’t want to intrude on your hospitality. I’ll see you at school!”

That time around, Ann walked to school. Akira rode in a car with a predator denied his prey. Ryuji walked alone. Morgana waited one more day in a castle dungeon, but was rescued in short order. A few days later, Shiho jumped from the roof of Shujin. Akira reached out to Ryuji and Ann, and the four of them stole Kamoshida’s heart.

In the end, not much changed.



On his first day at Shujin Academy, Akira wolfed down Sojiro’s breakfast and booked it to school. He arrived before the rain, before Ann or Ryuji, and navigated the familiar alleys to school while he muttered into his phone, “Suguru Kamoshida, Shujin Academy, castle.”

He instantly changed to his Phantom Thief outfit as he stepped into the Metaverse. A strange feeling accompanied it. His Joker mask felt like a knife in his hand, and he hadn’t realized how tense he was had felt without that sense of power.

“Halt! You are trespassing in King Kamoshida’s domain!” Armored Shadows converged on him. He wasn’t especially trying to be stealthy, so it made sense.

Akira reached for his face and felt the powers collected there. Bishamonten? Siegfried or Mot? The Shadows would be weak, and was it worth wasting so much energy on them just to see them all instantly immolated?

Almost certainly, yes. He chose Black Frost and cast an enormous blizzard on the gathered enemies, most of whom had ice weaknesses. They died before they could even scream.

The thought crossed his mind, I could just steal the treasure now. Then he remembered, No, treasures only show up after calling cards. Focus on Morgana.

That time around, Morgana and Akira defeated Kamoshida before Shiho could set foot on the school roof. Akira wanted to tackle Madarame alone too, but Morgana persuaded him that manpower was an important resource. He recruited Yusuke, later picking up Ryuji and Ann when he targeted Kaneshiro with Makoto. Eventually, all the Phantom Thieves gathered, and they fought with all their might to reform society.

In the end, not much changed.



On his first day at Shujin Academy, Akira strutted into Kamoshida’s throne room and bullied him all morning. His Persona Abbadon absorbed all physical wounds, and Akira didn’t even bother hitting back. He watched as Kamoshida’s anger bled slowly into abject terror as he recognized Akira's power. It was satisfying to make Kamoshida feel unsafe in his own domain, in a poetic justice sort of way, and once he was crying and sniveling for mercy, Akira left. He rescued Morgana, showed up to class late, sat through some lessons, and went home.

Kamoshida had a paranoid episode the next day. Not a change of heart or a psychotic breakdown, but he lashed out at everyone who got close to him, even the principal. He got put on administrative leave.

Akira approached the bewildered student council president the day after. “This is really weird, isn’t it? Why Kamoshida changed all of the sudden?”

Makoto scrutinized Akira’s face. He let her, his expression a perfectly smooth mask. “You’re responsible for what happened to him.”

“If you don’t rat me out, I’ll show you how I did it.”

Makoto’s curiosity won. She joined the Phantom Thieves as their penultimate member, awaking to her Persona in the face of Shadow Kamoshida’s ramblings about how his accomplishments entitled him to women. Akira had no intention of recruiting his other friends, but Futaba joined them anyway, since they had one strategy session in Leblanc and she found them out.

In the end, quite a bit had changed. But not enough.



On his first day at Shujin Academy, Akira had a plan. He had skipped cleaning his attic bedroom and made preparations instead. Last loop, Futaba had tutored Akira in some basic gizmos that manipulate electrical systems, as well as showed off her favorite voice changer app. Akira spent Friday gathering the parts from secondhand stores, Saturday building the device, and Sunday night breaking into the school and attaching it to the PA system.

It was no Futaba Cannon. More like an Akira Shotgun. But it’d get the job done.

During the Monday lunch period, Akira pushed a button. The announcement bells rang and heavily distorted, very threatening voice delivered a message.

Suguru Kamoshida. Your abuses against your students are known, and you can no longer escape the consequences. I am the Phantom Thief of Hearts, and I will take your distorted desires. Then you will confess your crimes with your own mouth.

Akira watched chaos erupt through Shujin. What was happening?! Who was responsible!? Some people thought Akira had something to do with the threatening message and tried to grill him about it. But the lies were so easy: “I just got here. I don’t even know him. Isn’t he an Olympic medalist?”

The next day, Kamoshida was begging for forgiveness from the principal, from the students, from Ann, from anyone who would look at him. Rescuing Morgana had been a simple detour the night before, and Akira didn’t even tell him that the treasure had been stolen until after the Palace collapsed.

“You need to explain this to me, frizzy-head,” Morgana demanded. “You hold multiple Personas with incredible power. You knew the layout of that Palace without ever setting foot in it before. You know what’s going on, and you need to tell me!”

Akira stared at his bright feline eyes. On the second loop, he had been gentle. Now, he understood what people meant when they said that it was easier to be cruel than kind.

“I’m going to steal the Treasure of Mementos. It keeps sending me back in time, so I keep trying again. You were born in Mementos. You’re not human. You never were.”

Morgana ran away after that. Akira didn’t blame him.

In the end, a lot had changed. But it hurt a lot worse.



On his first day at Shujin Academy, Akira already had Morgana in tow, and his Akira Shotgun went off without a hitch. He let Morgana join the fight, but Morgana barely touched Shadow Kamoshida before he fell to Akira’s might.

The pain of pushing Morgana away still echoed in Akira’s bones when Morgana demanded an explanation. “Look, I want to do this alone. I know you want me to find allies, but I don’t want those allies to get hurt. You saw me fight. I’m strong enough to do this alone.”

Morgana’s tail swished anxiously. “Your power is… incredible, to say the least.”

“But I still want to have friends. People to see movies with, or hang out at parks or arcades. I have some people in mind.”

“Are they also Persona-users?”

“They won’t be. I just want us to be normal friends.”

Swish, swish, swish went his tail.

“What’s wrong?”

“I guess… I’m having trouble understanding your motives. This solitary approach feels wrong to me.” Morgana looked at Akira. “What would happen if I refused your request?”

Akira took a deep breath steeled himself. “I would destroy you.”

“...You wouldn’t.”

“This is a time loop. On Christmas Eve, whenever I reach the solitary confinement door in Mementos, I’m brought back to April 9th. It doesn’t matter if I destroy you because you’ll come back.”

Morgana eventually agreed to do things Akira’s way. Akira met his friends, got to know them, helped them, and destroyed Palaces one by one, on his own. Either Morgana fully respected Akira’s wish that he stay out of the Metaverse too, or he followed him in but didn’t get caught.

In the end, not much changed. But Akira figured he had earned a vacation. 



On his first day at Shujin Academy, Kamoshida was already dead.

He rescued Morgana the day before school and sent him to find Haru, as a distraction. Then Akira returned to the Palace and did something he had been curious about for a long time: he killed Shadow Kamoshida.

He brought an umbrella for Ann, correctly guessing that no sedan would appear to take her to school. In the afternoon, the principal called an assembly to somberly announce Suguru Kamoshida had died over the weekend.

When he looked to Ann, Mishima, and Shiho, freed from their tormentor, he couldn’t muster up any feelings of satisfaction or pride. He didn’t really feel anything. Not when he had landed the blow, and not when viewing the aftermath.

Maybe he did it because of Akechi. In all the loops before, Akira had been content to let Akechi act in accordance with his own investigation. Akechi had surely deduced that his opponent was a Metaverse user, but it would be illogical for an ace detective to assume time loops were involved, so Akechi's actions were pretty predictable. Even fighting Akechi was more annoying than anything else.

But the Black Mask got results. He just got them against the wrong people.

Madarame died a two weeks later. Then a week after that, Kaneshiro. Then Okumura the week after. Akira took a break and resolved Futaba’s Palace peacefully. That was the one line he couldn’t cross. Hearing gossip from third years about Haru’s deep grief, he decided to have mercy on Niijima, for Makoto’s sake.

Then he met Akechi for the very first time in the belly of Shido’s ship.

“Who the hell do you think you are?!” Akechi snarled at him from behind a black mask. He summoned Loki and flung everything he could at Akira, but he had the Personas, strength, and stamina to resist every attack without effort.

“I’m a demon,” Akira answered him. A few more attacks and Akechi went down.

One more attack and he died.

In the end, a lot had changed. Akira wondered if more had changed than he realized.



On his first day at Shujin Academy, Akira wanted to stay home sick. It wasn’t grief or guilt from how the last loop went, just… exhaustion. None of this mattered in the end. Even taking out Shido, which after seven fights was getting depressingly easy, didn’t change the hearts of humanity. The only thing that could do that was at the depths of Mementos, and every time Akira drew close, the loop started again.

If this was loop number eight, and Akira was sixteen when he started this. Did that mean he was twenty-two years old now? Maybe Ohya would get him some alcohol. He wanted to see the look on Lala-chan’s face.

That was a thought… What if he just went crazy for one loop? Ignore the Metaverse. Punch Kamoshida. Get kicked out of Shujin, and then Leblanc. Join Kaneshiro’s mafia. Usurp him when he least expects it. Elope with Haru. Cheat on her with seven other girls. Get in a fist-fight with Akechi during one of his live TV interviews. Yell at Morgana to go to bed.

Let the world fall to ruin. Maybe help it along.

In the end, he didn’t do any of that. But he got lazy. Shiho jumped before Akira dealt with Kamoshida. He ignored Madarame’s Palace until the beginning of June. He killed Kaneshiro’s Shadow just to get it over with, he was so bored. He helped Futaba quickly, and he applied care in Okumura and Niijima’s Palaces just so Haru and Makoto wouldn’t be sad. Akira dodged confronting Akechi entirely, but that meant Akechi was alive to attack Akira from behind while he was trying to deal with Shido, and that was a nuisance.

All throughout, Akira showed up when his friends asked, but he almost never initiated plans. He knew they noticed. He didn’t have energy to care.

In the end, returning to Mementos felt like an obligation rather than another chance to set the world right. It had just occurred to Akira on December 23rd that if he didn’t go, he might not loop at all, and this would be a shitty year to begin the rest of his life.



On his first day at Shujin Academy, Ryuji wasn’t acting right.

Akira had his personal schedule worked out to address Kamoshida before anything bad happened to Shiho, but without the immediacy of the Akira Shotgun. It gave him time to make some small-talk with Ann, introduce himself to Makoto, bump into Haru, and cross paths with Ryuji, casual-like. His favorite tactic so far was to pretend to discover their secret training spot.

“Mind if I run with you, since we’re both here?” Akira said, like he always did.

Ryuji shuffled his feet and looked away. “I dunno, man. I kinda like my alone time?”

Shocked, because Ryuji had always said yes before, Akira pressed, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing! Nothing’s wrong, you go ahead, I’ll just run some other time—”

“Isn’t it better to run with someone? I won’t get in your way.”

“Dude, I said no!”

“But why? What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong is you met me twenty effing minutes ago and you’re already acting like you know me!” Ryuji blurted out. “I mean, shit, it’s creepy!”

Creepy? What was creepy about it? After six equivalent years of practice at the art of charisma, Akira thought he had completely eliminated any creepy behavior.

Ryuji took a breath and exhaled it with a bit of a shudder. “Look, I don’t wanna believe the rumors. I know what it’s like to have a bad rep, even if it’s true, and it sucks. But just… your whole attitude, man, it’s… it’s like when you say a word so often it stops feeling like a real word. Except shaped like a person. That’s you.”

Akira’s face didn’t react to what Ryuji said, but inside, he felt his heart thudding. He had never thought of it like that. He had lived the same life so many times, did he even still feel alive?

“...Okay, see, this is the shit I’m talking about, cuz you’re just staring at me now.”

“Sorry,” Akira said. “Didn’t mean to be creepy. I’ll just go.”

He didn’t wait for Ryuji to say anything else. 

In the end, he tried not to change too much. But things were still different. Akira caused his first mental shutdowns in Mementos. They were accidents, like trying to hold a bubble and popping it by mistake. 



On his first day at Shujin Academy, Akira committed to a new plan. He rescued Morgana before school started and told him about the looping, about the Phantom Thieves, about Shido and Akechi, and about Mementos. He tried to be delicate about revealing Morgana’s origin to him (at least, as best he understood it) but based on the heartbroken expression on Morgana’s face, there’s really no good way to tell him.

Whatever.

Akira tried to make two things clear to Morgana: he wanted to work alone, and he was going to charge to the depths of Mementos. Morgana could stay at Leblanc with him if he wanted, but if he started trying to intervene, he’d have to go live with Haru.

“I guess… I’m having trouble understanding your motives. This solitary approach feels wrong to me,” Morgana said, exactly like he said the last time.. “What would happen if I refused your request?”

“I’d destroy you,” Akira answered without hesitation.

It was fine. He wasn’t actually going to destroy Morgana. 

He might destroy a few other people along the way.

Futaba, Okumura, and Niijima were the only people he didn’t kill. Besides, their calling cards were easy. For everyone else, it was too much hassle. He didn’t need their treasures, and their victims fared just as well if they were dead instead of changed.

He reached the solitary confinement door at the end of summer vacation. The instant he attacked it, he woke up on April 9th. This was the first loop cut short.

In the end, a lot changed, but it didn’t mean anything. 



On his first day at Shujin Academy, Akira told Morgana everything, and made sure that two things were clear: keep his friends out of this, he was going to fight in Mementos. Morgana was a cognition of a cat and not a human and if Akira could just reach the Treasure at the bottom of Mementos, everything would be fine. Maybe he had to exterminate every shadow in Mementos. He hadn’t tried that yet.

“I guess… I’m having trouble understanding your motives. This solitary approach feels wrong to me,” Morgana said again.

“If you defy me, I’ll destroy you,” Akira cut in.

“...You wouldn’t.”

“If you stay out of my way, I won’t have to.”

“You’re bluffing!”

“I can't remember all the mental shutdowns I've caused,” Akira told him. “And you saw my Personas. There’s more where that came from.”

Morgana left that night. He came back a few nights later, after Kamoshida’s mental shutdown, while Akira was preparing for Madarame’s.

“Maybe what you say is true, and I’m nothing more than a cognition. But I believe in humanity. I believe in their power to overcome distortion and change the world. You say you’re opposed to corrupt adults who ruin other people’s lives… but I can’t stand by while you fight like this, leaving a senseless trail of death in your path! You’re unworthy of calling yourself a phantom thief!”

Akira wasn’t angry. He wasn't even stunned. It was hard to muster up any kind of feeling, actually. He just said, “Okay.”

“Okay!?”

“Madarame’s Palace. I’m going tomorrow. Stop me.”

At the front gates. Morgana summoned Zorro. Akira summoned Odin. Thunder Reign knocked Morgana out in one hit. When Akira collapsed the Palace, Morgana was still inside.

In the end, Akira felt tired. He actually stopped going to school after August, packing the biggest bag of supplies he could and heading into Mementos to try some actually clever approaches to the solitary confinement door. He wasn’t sure how long he spent in Mementos, but eventually, the reset took hold.



On his first day at Shujin Academy, Akira told Morgana everything, and added, “If you defy me, I’ll destroy you. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again.”

Morgana bristled. He demanded proof that Akira could beat him. They went to the top floor of Mementos and Akira summoned Odin and cast Thunder Reign against an unsuspecting Shadow. Morgana’s ears flattened contritely, and he agreed quietly, “Fine. Your way.”

Akira didn’t mind when Morgana made himself scarce for a week. Then he came back, cool and self-possessed as ever. It was kind of nostalgic to see him lie across Akira’s desk and supervise his crafting.

“You know, I was thinking about the looping,” Morgana said. “What if you simply haven’t eliminated enough Palaces? You told me about seven Palaces and all the Mementos requests, but there have to be more Palaces in Tokyo than just those.”

“Why would destroying more Palaces help?”

“Palaces are born from distorted souls dwelling in Mementos. There’s a chance that Mementos draws power from Palaces in turn. If you destroy enough Palaces, you’ll weaken the defenses around the Treasure of Mementos.”

Akira frowned. “That… doesn’t make sense.”

“Forgive me for the insolent phrasing, but you don’t have any other leads. You need to do something to vary your strategy. Just leave Mementos alone and focus on as many Palaces as you can find.”

Morgana was right. Akira sighed and switched to smoke bombs. He supposed finding new Palaces wouldn't be too bad.

“Hey, you have a big day tomorrow. You should—”

“Tell me to go to bed, and I’ll kill you.”

“Hmph. Nevermind.”



Akira first entered Mementos on October 9th. Kamoshida, Madarame, Kaneshiro, and Shido died one after the other, with Shido’s funeral in mid-May. He reformed Futaba, Okumura, and Niijima out of habit.

Then he found more Palaces. Asahina. Yoshikage. Daiba. Tsunashi. Rintarou. Tamano. Ginko. Akemi. Those took weeks to complete, since for the first time in years, he had to learn the keywords and explore the Palace. The novelty of banging around unfamiliar lairs until he found something to kill put an actual smile on his face. Akira couldn’t remember the last time he had a reason to smile. And his friends seemed more… open to him, in the real world. Maybe the novelty of the new Palaces improved his disposition and made him look less creepy. And at the end of the day, he cherished those moments with each and every one of them.

But, his patience ran out. Morgana tried to encourage him to find more Palaces, reminding him that he still had two months until he needed to enter Mementos, but he wouldn’t be deterred. Fifteen Palaces was enough and Morgana knew better than to argue with him.

Akira stepped down into echoing tunnels darkness, but only cleared a few floors in Mementos before he heard a familiar voice.

Makoto’s voice.

Her words didn’t even register to him. It was something officer-like, “stop right there” or “halt.” He just knew her voice. How long had it been since he heard her voice? He turned to her.

It wasn’t just Makoto. It was Queen, with her iron mask and leather bodysuit. And beside her stood Skull, and then Noir, and Fox, and Oracle, and Panther, and Mona at the front. All of them.

“I don’t want them here,” Akira told Mona.

“This ain’t up to you,” Skull shot back.

“Please, you have to stop this!” Noir asked. “This isn’t the right path to what you want! You’re hurting so many people in the process!”

Akira’s gaze stayed locked on Morgana. “I told you to leave them alone.” 

“We’re your friends!” Panther argued. “I know you want to protect us, but you’re going crazy, trying to do all of this on your own!”

“We’ve been informed that time is repeating for you,” Fox added. “Why did you cease asking for our help?”

“And for the others who did help you, like Sojiro! He kept you safe while you were causing mental shutdowns! How could you?!” Oracle’s voice shook with anger.

All the words passed through him like ghosts. “I told you to leave them alone!” His throat scratched as he said that. Did he scream it? He wasn’t sure.

Mona flicked his tail, defiant for the first time this loop. “You’re distorted. There’s no two ways about it.”

“Will you fight me?”

“Only if absolutely necessary,” Queen informed him.

He didn’t wait for them to decide what absolute necessity was. Lucifer was his most powerful Persona, and his mask caught flame as he summoned it. He’d show them how strong he was, how useless it was to say he needed them, and if he had to hurt them to make them stand down—

Lucifer raised a hand and spread its wings, and Mementos shook as a concussive force rocked the tunnel. Akira could see it all happen like a movie: the way the attack crashed into their bodies, how some of them—Mona, Queen—avoid the damage, while others—Panther, Skull, Noir, Fox—took the full force and crumbled.

“With one hit?!” Akira heard Queen cry.

“I warned you about his power,” Mona said.

“Then why did you bring them!?” Akira definitely screamed that time. He could feel it tear in his throat.

“We’re here to make you stop, no matter what!” Queen argued. “You’re not thinking rationally anymore!”

Johanna emerged from her mask—not even Anat, Johanna, how did they expect to win?—and she healed their fallen teammates, but even once they stood up, they looked shaky.

Noir shook her head while she gained her bearings, and she responded to some unheard message. “We’ll be fine! Stick to the plan!” She used some other item, helping Fox stand taller.

Oh, there was a plan now, was there? Akira could see them all, crowded around a table in Leblanc, discussing what he had told Morgana, discussing him, debating how to fight him!? And why?! Because they wanted so badly to be part of a hellish Metaverse-hunting crew!?

“Stop it! I can’t let you get hurt!” Akira tried to argue.

Skull hefted his spiked bat into a fighting stance, then rushed Akira. “Then why the hell are you hurting us?!”

He struck Akira’s shoulder, but Akira didn’t even stagger. It barely stung. Skull’s brown eyes behind his mask widened. “Shit—!”

Some gunfire collided with Akira’s back. Rapid shots, someone’s machine gun. Panther or Fox’s? He glanced at the shooter, and yes, that was Fox shooting at him. A twist of his wrist pulled his mask off again, and this time, Lucifer cast hellfire down at Fox and anyone who happened to be nearby. He caught Skull in the blast, as well as Queen and Panther. The blaze even overwhelmed Panther’s affinity for fire. He clicked his tongue in irritation. Mona could revive, if he didn’t get the healers this would just go on and on…

It was kind of strange, how quickly his horror and pain faded now that the fight began. He could fight all day. He had been fighting for years. His well of energy had gotten so deep that even his most powerful attacks barely dented it, and the damage his friends did against him barely warranted healing. Eventually, they’d exhaust themselves. They’d go down, and stay down

“You got it?!” Akira heard Panther exclaim. Only she and Mona were still standing, save Oracle hovering above them. The rest of them lay motionless on the floor.

NOW!” Oracle’s digitized voice echoed. Carmen and Zorro burst to life, and what did they expect to do? Akira had taken damage from both of them already with barely a scratch, but sure. He pulled Lucifer into the air to match—

—And the attack hit him from behind. Bright, burning, blessed magic.

He collapsed.



Akira opened his eyes. He had consciousness, but his limbs ached, and his feet wouldn’t move. He was lying down on concrete. With a twist of his head, he saw his frie—the others. They were seated around a rest area. Queen had a bag open, distributing bandages and beverages.

“Have we knocked some sense into you yet?” Mona said beside him. Akira turned his head the other direction. Zorro’s form had already disappeared into sparkles, and below him, Mona still bore scrapes and bruises from the fight.

“I told you…” Akira started to repeat himself.

“I don’t care what you told me,” Mona interrupted. “You’re suffering, and you’re causing others to suffer. I couldn’t allow that.”

Akira closed his eyes. His face felt hot. And… kinda wet? With an incredible effort, he raised his hand to touch his face. When was the last time he cried? Had he cried even once, since the loops started? He had no idea.

He clenched every muscle he had until he reached a sitting position. A few of the Thieves reacted, shocked and wary, but Mona held up his arm. There was a stillness in the air. Maybe they were waiting for him to apologize. He felt like they deserved... something.

“Let me go,” Akira said at last. “To the depths.”

“Why?” Queen asked.

“Trigger another loop. Start over.”

“What good will that do?” Oracle said.

“I’ll be… nicer next time. Won’t make you worry.”

“You think that all of this was the result of a failure to be nice?”

Akira had to focus to pick him out against the darkness of Mementos, but between Skull and Panther, Crow stood with his arms folded across his chest, his helmet-like black mask pushed up on top of his head. Of course. There’s no other way they could have used blessed magic against him.

Crow continued, “You want them to forget that you attacked them. If you start over, you can pretend that you never harmed them, and you don’t have to live with the consequences of your actions. Triggering a loop now would be nothing more than an act of cowardice.”

Crow’s gaze had a cold edge to it. Not pleasant, and not manic, just… cold. Akira couldn’t face it for long. “So what now?”

“Now, we need a good night’s sleep,” Queen said. “And then we should all meet. We’ll plan a method for ending the loops, and make our attack in late December.”

“I’ve brought you all down there before,” Akira said. “It didn’t work.”

“All of us?” Crow asked pointedly.

Akira blinked. He was right. He was completely right. Crow had never been to the solitary confinement door. It felt so stupid to place his hopes in that one detail after so many failures. Then again, Akira had been acting pretty stupid lately.

Crow stepped closer and offered a hand to Akira. The deep ache in his bones remained, but with help, Akira made it to his feet. He couldn’t walk without leaning on Crow, but he made it to the Monavan, and then later, into the sunlight.

He had no idea if bringing his friends down to the depths of Mementos would do any good this time. Maybe he’d still end up back in April, trying again, dodging consequences no matter how badly he deserved them.

In the end, Akira felt hope this time. Maybe the nightmare could end.