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The first time Ryuji wakes up in bed, he groans about having to go to school again with an angry twinge of his leg and his mom making breakfast for the first time in weeks because, for once, she got a day off.

That first time, he went through a long portion of his life. He reconnected with Ann, he fought with Morgana, he argued with Yusuke, he bonded over manga with Makoto, he played video games and visited Akihabara with Futaba, he learned how to make really good tea with Haru, he quietly fumed when Akechi passed by beause of his views.

But most importantly, he grew close to Akira. He became his best friend. He would wrap his arm around his shoulder and laugh with him and tease him and play video games after school and read manga and protect him in the Metaverse. They were two peas in a pod.

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The second time Ryuji wakes up in bed, he lets out a tired groan as he slaps his alarm clock silent and sits up with a long yawn. His leg twinges in angry pain and he winces. It's...been awhile since it hurt like that. (Makoto taught him good ways to massage the pain. she's quite attentive about things she finds important.)

But he thinks nothing of it. Phantom pains, the doctors said. It would follow him for the rest of his life, and he just had to deal with it. Which...sucked, but he understood. (doesn't mean he didn't like it any more.)

Ryuji looked at himself in the mirror and blinked. Weird. His roots were starting to show but now there's just...blonde once more. Very weird. Did he dye it last night and forget? (it's happened before. lapses in memory. part of his adhd, apparently.)

He shakes his head and stubborly puts in his contacts, refusing to wear glasses today. The last time he did, Akira kept insisting they switch to check each others prescriptions for shits and giggles. The headache they both got was not worth the trouble.

Once he's showered, dressed, and properly ready for the day, he heads down the hall of the tiny apartment he and his mom live in, only to smell something he didn't expect.

"Ma?" He calls out, recieving a hum of acknowledgement from the kitchen. He pokes his head in and sure enough, there stood his mother slaving away over a nice hot breakfast. She smiles at her son when he walks in to grab a drink.

"Morning, Ryuji." She greets, before frowning at his drink of choice. "You know the rules. Soda after water." She says pointedly, making Ryuji wilt just slightly.

"Come on, ma! Just once?" He asks, only to recieve a firm shake of the head from his mother, and the argument ended with a pouty Ryuji replacing the soda in his hand with a bottle of water. He's good at keeping up with his diet, but sometimes he'd like to just relax. Plus, soda helps him wake up. (unlike coffee, which gives him a headache. he can't understand why Akira likes that stuff so much. it's so bitter.)

Ryuji peers over his mothers shoulder. "Didn't know you had the day off, ma." He mutters, making his mother shrug. "Well I do. And I thought we could use a nice breakfast together, since we don't get to do it often." She says, decidedly giving her son a kiss on the top of the head, making her laugh as he quickly scrambles to get away with a loud "Ma!".

The normalcy is nice, but it feels...almost like deja vu. Like he's been through this before. Same smells, similar conversation, same breakfast...where has he seen this before?

Curiously, he opens up his phone. Normally he's flooded with texts from the Phantom Thieves, but this time there's nothing. Empty inbox. But that's not what catches his eye. Oh no. What catches his eye is the date.

April 11th. He remembers that day. He remembers it well. But it's been months since that date. Is his clock wrong?

"Hey, Ma?" He asks, recieving a curious "Yes?" from the kitchen. "What's today's date? I think my phone's wrong..." There's a bit of shuffling around, only for Ryuji's mother to finally answer him with a confident "It’s the 11th, hon!", making his stomach sink.

It couldn't be April 11th. Last time he checked it was December 20th. Their plan with Akechi just got announced. He just saw Akira's "suicide" planted all across TV. He was so confident.

And then he woke up.

The question of why it was April 11th once more lingered in his mind as he ate breakfast with his mother, walked to school, nearly bumped into that same little school kid who was just walking with his mother (the glare she gave him was the same, but sheesh lady it's not his fault her kid got in his way. cut the boy some slack.), and finally...he saw it. And it hit him like a truck. (or would a train be more appropriate? given what's going to be broadcast all across the news later.)

Ann climbs into that silver car with fucking Kamoshida, and Akira stands idly by, declining the offer of a ride from the man.

Ryuji's legs surge him forward, and he races to catch up with the girl, wanting to stop her, to get her out of there, to save her like he couldn't do before-

He grinds his teeth as the car speeds away. "Damn it!" He exclaims with an angry slam of his foot. "That effin' asshole..." He grumbles under his breath, before he stops to stare at the fading car. Why...why did he chase after her? Why did she get in his car? Why-?

Why is Kamoshida back?

His breath catches in his throat at the realization that something is wrong. Something is horribly, horribly wrong. Something is wrong, he's in the past, and now he needs to find a way out, and he can't believe that's even real.

Ryuji pinches himself. Yep, that hurt. He's not dreaming, that's for sure. He does it again for good measure. Mhm. Yup. Still, definitely, hurts. Maybe he should stop for now.

He looks to Akira, who looks back at him like he's seen a stranger. Shit. What do movies do in this scenario? They try to act like it's that day all over again? That's always been a weird plot line. Why act like things are the same as they were then when you could say so many things-?

"Are you okay?" Akira's voice interrupts his thoughts. Oops, he was staring. Ryuji shakes his head and rubs his eyes (careful of his contacts). "Wha? Oh, yeah i'm...fine." He says quietly. "Sorry i'm just, tired. You know how it is." He says with a grin, making Akira nod. (he forgot how quiet he was. did the Phantom Thieves really help bring him out of his shell that much?)

Well...if that "do the day the same" plotline is overdone, perhaps Ryuji can do something different this time...

He sticks his hand out, and smiles. "You're that transfer student, aint'cha? Never seen you around Shujin before, so it's gotta be you! I'm Ryuji Sakamoto. It's nice to meet you!"

Make new (old) friends once more, on a lighter note. A better note. A different note. See how things turn.

Akira's slow to take his hand. (he's never been the most trusting of guys.) "Ah...Kurusu Akira. It's...it's nice to meet you, too, Sakamoto-kun."

Ryuji pulls his hand away and nods. Yeah. This'll be new. He'll make things a bit better this time. A bit lighter. A bit more friendly. (why does he want to do it different? was he not satisfied with how he met Akira before? he's not really sure, but...maybe it's curiosity? maybe it's wanting to show his old friend he can still be friends even now? who knows.)

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The eight time Ryuji wakes up in his bed on April 11th, he finally knows why he's been waking up in April 11th.

Akira dies.

Anytime he wakes up back in his bed, on this same day, Akira Kurusu is dead, and he wasn't there to stop him. To save him. To protect him. Like he should.

He saw it first hand, this time. He saw The Reaper. He saw it charge at their leader during their tense battle. He saw the scythe swing upwards, intended for Skull, for Ryuji. He saw the glint of the blade.

He felt when Joker, when Akira shoved him aside and took the blow for him.

The image of his body peeling in half like some kind of fucking banana peel was something he would never forget, but would die to if he could.

Ryuji stared at the ceiling, long and hard, taking heaving breaths as his alarm clock blared on to his left. It was playing the morning radio, but he couldn't care less. (he's practically memorized it now. cloudy skies with chance of rain, so bring your umbrellas!)

He just watched his best friend die. He just watched his best friend sacrifice himself for him. He just watched his friend, who he's befriended over and over again, die for him.

He just watched Akira Kurusu die to something that was supposed to kill Ryuji, and that restarted this loop.

So...Akira's the reason he keeps waking up in April 11th. He's the reason. Anytime he dies, Ryuji wakes up. (he wants to test this theory. he considers doing it himself, killing the teen, but no. no. no. nonono. he's not insane. he's not heartless, either. that's his friend. his best friend. the boy he cares for more then anything. he'd never kill him, even if it's to figure out the reason behind this mystery.)

Ryuji can't help but let out a small, shuttering sigh at this realization. He hears Captain Kidd stirr in his mind, making the blonde wince. "Kidd..." He mutters. "What do I do...?" He gets no reply. He didn't expect one. The true self, the Persona, it only knows what it's host knows. Kidd couldn't possibly have the answers, but god he wishes he did.

(Ryuji learned the first time around that Kidd? stays with him no matter what. he remembered his shock when he walked into Kamoshida's palace "for the first time" and was fully decked out in his thief gear, while Akira remained uniform clad. it was strange to still have Captain Kidd with him, but...relieving. to know that he wasn't alone in all this crazy.)

Ryuji figures there's only one thing he can do. Find out how to stop Akira from dying.

So, with a firm hand, he slaps his alarm clock silent, and gets ready for the day. At least he gets to have one of his moms homemade meals again.

Loop - 8/573 : Start